There’s a story here, although I’m not sure what it is. In the end I both love this photo and it also kind of scares me.
I haven’t been shooting many candid street shots of people for a while, and in fact I’ve been shooting less overall. I recently decided to remedy both of those so I’ve taken to throwing my camera strap over my shoulder more while just going about my daily business. I almost always have a camera with me, even if it’s in my bag, but as important as it is to have one with you, it makes even more of a difference to have it completely at the ready. Not only does it make it easier to get a shot when the opportunity might only last for a moment, but it also causes me to look for more photo possibilities. Having the camera strap around my neck changes my mindset.
Anyway, I was doing that on this particular evening. I wasn’t seeing much of interest so I relaxed. Sometimes when there is nothing of much interest to shoot and I’m among people I’ll still shoot. I can work on being unobtrusive, or practice shooting from the hip. Every now and then one of these throw-away shots turns out to be more interesting than I expected. But at this particular time I was just relaxing with my back against a pillar.
Then this gentleman exited a train from across the platform and walked over to this side. He seems to be looking at, past, and through me all at once. He had this way of seeming to be completely in the moment yet somewhere else at the same time. He stood fairly close and invaded my personal space. It was unsettling.
I’ve gotten reasonably good at resting my hand on my camera in a way that has me ready to release the shutter without calling attention to what I’m doing. It’s not magic; some people notice, but most don’t. But this gentleman could not have noticed because when he walked up my hand was not on the camera at all. But again he walked right up close and looked either at or through me, and after a few moments I decided to grab a shot.
But first some more background: I’ve been playing with camera settings and on this day they didn’t work. The technical details do not matter except to point out that they left me with very slow shutter speeds, so everything is blurry. This image, for example, was shot at 1/18 of a second, which is an eternity for a shutter speed when you are not on a tripod and do not have some form of stabilization built in to the camera or lens. The camera moves, people move, and everything comes out blurry. Which is exactly what happened in this shot, except for one element.
Him. He is perfectly sharp. Now mind you, it is not just that he is standing still. Even the stationary items are blurry in this image because of the camera movement captured at 1/18. Look at the clock, the light fixture, the post. They are all blurry. Software tells me that the focus point was the pillar directly ahead, and it is blurry because of camera shake. But he is tack sharp.
Did his movement exactly track the camera shake as I hit the shutter button, like we were in phase or something? I don’t know. There is movement in his tie, but he seems to be perfectly still. But if he were still, he would be blurry. Even the way he leans in from the edge of the frame is unsettling.
After a few more moments, he moved. He walked past me, but stayed even more within my personal space as he stood to my immediate right, between the pillar I was leaning against and the platform edge. It was a ridiculous location both for being so close to me and so close to the platform edge. Was I in his spot? The next 2 trains to come were not mine. He got on the first, walked in a few steps and exited before the doors closed. He then got on and stayed on the second, which was going exactly the same place as the first one.
I love this image, and it haunts me.