1/500s @ f/5.6, ISO 100, FL=100mm
To me, Street Photography is all about catching a moment. I believe this image, which I’ve titled “Exuberance” catches such a moment. The shooting conditions were absolutely the worst, but I think the moment exceeds the technical limitations of the photograph. And within the image lies a story.
I really like this photograph, though it might not be to everyone’s taste. First the limitations: I was shooting at absolutely the worst time of day (10:55 a.m.) in very harsh bright sun, resulting in blown highlights and deep shadows (very contrasty as we say in photo jargon). This was taken in the plaza right in front of the presidential Palace here in Quito, Ecuador, and people kept stepping into the frame.
So why do I like this photo so much? Because there is so much energy going on in the frame (things I didn’t even see when I first clicked a quick series of shots). First, of course, is the girl. Arms outstretched at the moment she released her three balloons, and the expression of pure joy on her face. At first glance it looks like only two balloons, but look at the shadows to the right of her shoes.
Next, check out the dog taking a bead on the floating balloons and racing to intercept them. He never did catch them. Then there are the spectators in the background, especially the couple sitting on the bench in the upper righthand corner of the frame. A moment in time, a mere instant, caught for all eternity.
This image was captured in CameraRAW with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II full frame digital camera, and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM medium telephoto zoom lens. I had my aperture set to f/5.6 for just a tad more depth of field (DOF). I wanted the background blurry, but not so much that the viewer couldn’t make out what was going on (example: the running dog and people on the bench). My focal length (FL) was zoomed back to 100mm to take in more of the scene. A shutter speed of 1/500s guaranteed that the girl remained sharp despite her being in motion, and an ISO of 100 resulted in a very high resolution image to work with.
I converted the RAW image in Adobe PhotoShop Elements 11 (PSE11) paying special attention to the clipped highlights. I then cropped the image to 8×10 and gave it just a little sharpening. Next I uploaded the image to my High Dynamic Range (HDR) software (Photomatix Essentials) in an effort to smooth out the contrast a bit more. Photomatix has many presets available, and I eventually chose the “Balanced” preset as the most natural looking.
Completing my edits in Photomatix I once again downloaded the image back into PSE11, there I converted it to Black & White and fiddled a bit more with the contrast. I also cloned out a few distracting elements in the plaza. I think I was successful in overcoming many of the technical limitations of the photo, thus allowing the story to tell itself without too many overwhelming distractions. A happy young girl, on a beautiful Sunday morning, having fun with her balloons in Quito.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler
Reporting from Quito, Ecuador