Settings and Method

Often the first question about a photo is about f stop and aperture. While important, these settings didn't make the shot. I'd rather recast the question and put it in the context of how I work.
Fujifim X-Pro1 with M mount adapter and Voigtlander f1.4 Nokton

When I go out to the street and see what the day offers, I make a decision on the lens based on pedestrian density. Lower densities requires longer lenses as we tend to shoot from farther away. Imagine if me and one other person are the only ones on the street. What sort of reaction am I going to get if I run up to that person and shove a camera in their face? Bruce Gilden gets away with that on busy New York streets, but I don't think it would work for me in small town Ontario.

With the lens chosen I next have to determine on how much depth of field I want, which of course, dictates the aperture. Commonly I'm shooting at f8 to f11, but occasionally I'll go to a larger aperture with a longer lens to blur out the background. I'm typically walking around with the lens at f11, but I'll change quickly if I see the need. It's one of the advantages of primes with distance and depth of field scales as I can see what I'm going to get just by looking down at the lens. I can make choices before I lift the camera up.

Shutter speed is all about motion blur or removing it. If I'm shooting while moving and the subject is moving, I need a minimum of 1/500th to freeze the motion. If I plan on being static, that can drop down to 1/125th. I'll tolerate a bit of motion blur, a moving foot perhaps, if it adds to the shot, but I'm leery of overdoing motion blur to get an artsie look. It can easily get cliché. The ISO is then left on Auto to make up for the high EV result of my shutter and aperture choices. With modern sensors, I'm not worried about excessive grain and besides, I'm converting to black & white where grain can add to the image.

Frequently I'm using zone focus technique to ensure that I can work quickly while getting everything sharp. As we can see in the photo, at f11, this Vöigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton has everything from a little over six feet to hundreds of feet in the depth of field range. Maximum sharpness is 10' which is about right if I want to get a fairly tight shot. Now I'm not suggesting that everyone run out and buy manual lenses, but for my style of working, having a distance and depth of field scale marked on the lens has significant advantages.

Why not just use the AF? With my style of rapid shooting, my older cameras just don't keep up. I've had a camera completely stall out on me and record nothing when I was trying to take five shots in rapid succession. My faster camera bodies still slow me down when I have to first note where the AF points have selected in the image before pressing the shutter release. Otherwise I'm just leaving everything to chance. With zone focusing, I don't have to think about the plane of focus, I just shoot. The less I fiddle with settings, the more I concentrate on what is happening around me. That said, I will use AF and a longer lens when pedestrian densities are low, but there are still enough people out there. I'm not stuck on just one method.