Henri Cartier-Bresson and tilt screens

Cartier-Bresson was a classically trained painter who became a Surrealist, then a photojournalist. The street images that he is best known for, were usually created by his picking a compositionally interesting location and then letting life walk into the frame. He used his classical training in composition to craft his brilliant photographs. His style was anything but run-and-gun. He famously declared that he would take just the one shot, having known that the image he had visualized, had been captured.

This sort of street photography has always been a struggle for me. Lately I have used the excuse that I live in a visually boring part of the country: a huge expanse of flat farm land punctuated by small towns that all look alike. Can't really use it as an excuse though, for I'm willing to bet if Cartier-Bresson was still alive and he took a side trip to my neck of the woods, he'd find the visually stimulating amongst all that bland.

The
Fujifilm X-T10 with tilit screen and 27mm lens
run-and-gun style implies an impatience with waiting and crafting a shot. Guilty as charged. I have difficulty waiting on the moment so I have to go chase it. Ironically, a small bit of technology is starting to change that.

I haven't had my X-T10 very long and I've played with the tilt screen even less, but a funny thing is happening: I'm starting to use the, "let life walk into the frame" approach more and more. It took me a while to realize why, but the tilt screen allows me to compose an image at waist level while remaining relaxed. I can use it to stand quietly and let life walk into my image. It has encouraged patience.

Usually I don't want someone to react to me. Rather I want them to remain immersed in whatever is holding their interest at that moment. Anything that I'm doing which becomes distracting for them, can ruin the moment. So if I can't become part of the woodwork, then the odds of getting the shot diminish. Unfortunately I can't relax with the camera at my eye. I can't relax if I'm raising and lowering the camera to capture what walks by. Worse, all that motion can ruin the shot by attracting attention. But that tilt screen - it just lets me stand there quietly, calmly and then I hit my one shot.
Street Photography - woman walking dog


In this image, I saw the woman walking her dog along the promenade from over 100' away. I knew that if I could set it up right, I could have her walk into a frame composed around the posts, chains and walkway. I had the time to plan before she arrived. I waited.

As she stepped past the first post, I took the one shot. It was a Cartier-Bresson moment for me made possible by the little added feature of a tilting screen. Never would have thought of that when I bought it.