A Day In The Life

While traveling on this world adventure of mine, I’ve tried to get out on a daily walkabout [almost] every day.  I prefer the jungle and mountain trails with their beauty, serenity and wildlife, but the big cities can be almost as interesting.  Just different kinds of critters to shoot.  This morning was no exception.  Now that we’re in the month of October here in Quito, it rains just about every day (usually starting about 3 p.m.).  This is normally the time we eat our second meal of the day, and for the past week we’ve been getting drenched when going out to eat.  Nevertheless, the mornings are usually beautiful, and this morning was no exception.  Bright, sunny and a little crisp.  In other words, just about perfect.

I put the 70-200mm zoom lens on my camera and headed out.  I set the camera up in AV (aperture priority) mode at f/5.6 for increased depth of field (DOF), and preset my ISO at 400 to ensure sufficient shutter speed.  I figured this setup would allow me to shoot almost anything that stepped in front of me, either in the contrasty sunlight or in the open shade.  A little forethought can make the difference between getting the shot and missing the shot (you don’t want to be fiddling with camera adjustments when a situation presents itself).  In the “olden” days of film we used to say f/8 and be there.  Meaning we usually had Tri-X asa 400 black & white 35mm film in our camera, and that f/8 would ensure adequate DOF in most shooting situations.  Tri-X film had a lot of processing latitude in the lab, and they could salvage almost any exposure.

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 1/2500s @ f.5.6 ISO 400 @ 200mm

This little girl was ahead of me on the sidewalk, and stared intently as her mom gabbed away on her cell phone (completely oblivious to everything around her).  Yes, I am a person who ABSOLUTELY HATES CELL PHONES.  I just loved the way her one little eye poked out from underneath the brim of her cap.  I stopped, let her get a few feet farther ahead of me, and shooting between pedestrians grabbed this quick shot (if I had been fiddling with my camera settings I would have missed the shot completely).

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1/320s @ f/5.6 ISO 400 @ 200mm

For this next shot my camera settings remained the same, but because I was shooting into open shade my shutter speed dropped to 1/320s (where on the previous image it had been at 1/2500s).  Again, no fiddling with camera settings allowed me to get the shot.  Now I’m not completely opposed to making adjustments on the fly, but the point I’m trying to make is this:  that with a little bit of forethought you can be ready for that spontaneous shooting moment when it presents itself.  And that’s what street photography is all about (most photography actually).  We see these same shoeshine boys every morning in the plaza, and they will buff up your skids for only $1.00 USD.  They don’t have a penny to their name, but they do have the ubiquitous cell phone (can someone please explain that to me).

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1/400s @ f/5.6 ISO 400 @ 200mm

I’m still shooting at the plaza here, and again into open shade.  You’ll notice that my shutter speed has remained about the same at 1/400s.  This is totally adequate to stop both motion blur and camera shake when shooting at a focal length (FL) of 200mm.  The rule of thumb is to maintain a shutter speed of 1/focal length (or in this case 1/200s).  By keeping my aperture at f/5.6 and my ISO at 400, my shutter speed automatically stays in the safe range. We see this guy all the time in the plaza, and always with his small transistor radio (I didn’t know they even made transistor radios anymore).  Obviously he is not a wealthy man, but he seems quite content to sit in the park (on a sunny morning) and listen to his radio.

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1/2000s @ f/5.6 ISO 400 @ 200mm

I quite like this shot.  Mainly because it shows a kid in action having fun.  This was shot in bright, contrasty sunlight and you can see the shutter speed bounced back up to 1/2000s. This was plenty fast to stop his running action (and any possible camera shake on my part). In fact 1/2000s will stop most birds in flight (BIF).  Again, to make my point, all of these images were made with the same exact camera settings.  The only thing that changes in AV mode is the shutter speed (and this is done automatically based upon your initial aperture and ISO setting).  Experience (61 years worth) told me that my initial camera settings would cover me in most of the anticipated shooting situations for the morning, and they did.  This was my last shot of the morning and it just makes me SMILE.

Photographer’s note:  all images were captured in CameraRAW using my Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame digital camera, and Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM zoom telephoto lens. RAW conversion was completed in Adobe Raw Converter (ARC), and post-edits (including B&W conversion) were completed in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11).  The last image, the boy running through the fountains, was also processed in High Dynamic Range (HDR) using Photomatix Essentials software.  SFD

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer and World Traveler

Quito, Ecuador


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