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An Attempt at Street Photography

I woke early and got ready for the day; walked the dog, ate breakfast, shaved, showered and brushed my teeth. By the time I finished, it was 6. I grabbed my camera, double checked that I had a second battery and a second memory card. These are two things I’ve never needed but I’m nothing if not prepared. I exited the house through the front door opening and closing it slowly as to not wake my wife or daughter. The car was cold from sitting in the driveway and I sat waiting for it to warm up before pulling out of the driveway. While on I275 heading west the morning light started to creep above the dark horizon behind me. I merged onto 71 south towards downtown Cincinnati and as I got closer it got brighter and the world beyond the car’s headlights came into view. It would still be several minutes before the sun broke into the sky. I’d timed things well. When taking pictures, the sunrise always comes faster than expected.

I took the Reading Road exit and made my way through unfamiliar streets to Findlay Market. I parked in a paid lot a block away. It was my first visit in years but every visit started in this same lot. This visit would be different from past ones. I wasn’t there to shop, I was there to try my hand at street photography. The market wasn’t open for a couple more hours so I had time to explore. Findlay Market lays in Over the Rhine, a segment of northern downtown Cincinnati. My plan was to head towards Fountain Square and circle back to the market to end my morning excursion.

I paid for several hours in the lot and turned towards the closed market. Tables and chairs were chained together and padlocked. The occasional shopkeeper bustled around the market preparing for the day ahead. As I approached, an old man sitting in a folding chair blocked the sidewalk. He belted out opera, an old boom box providing his accompaniment. While no expert, my ears couldn’t ascertain any real talent. I crossed the street watching him out of the corner of my eye.

The sun rose and I snapped some pictures. I gained confidence in the fact that I had the streets nearly to myself. This felt similar to the comfort I find in the quiet of landscape photography. Instead of trees, hills and grass I had buildings and pavement, but the sky is ever present. There was nothing exciting about this morning’s sunrise. If I wanted to make it exciting I would have to do some post processing on the computer at home. As I continued the buildings got bigger and the sun got higher making for some wonderful reflections off the windows of structures that a couple years later would no longer stand, gentrification making its mark on the city. The toppling of the old to make way for the new.

I continued my stroll through empty streets thankful that it was too early for others to be out and about continuing my visual exploration of the cityscape. I passed through Fountain Square and found an Einstein’s Bagel open for breakfast. It seemed sacrilegious to eat there when an hour or so later I’d be at the market with culinary choices of all kinds would impact my senses in stall after stall. I’ve never been religious so I had a black coffee and a bagel at Einstein's. I asked the woman working the register for the key code to the bathroom before I started my way back north to the market.

When I arrived at Findlay Market my comfort evaporated. Where the rest of the city was empty, the market was busy. This is great for business and probably for a real street photographer but not for me personally. I’m not comfortable photographing people or even photographing around people so this would be a challenge. But this was what I was here for, to try something different with my camera.

As I entered the market I immediately saw a friend at the first stall. What a welcome site in an unfamiliar setting. I'd start the exploration of the market with a friendly face. I sat at the bar in front of her shop. We talked and I snapped a couple shots of the area and people around me, my confidence buoyed by the presence of a friend familiar with these surroundings.

I could only linger for so long before making my way through the rest of the market. I didn’t enjoy my time as I slid past crowds in the narrow aisle between shopkeepers. The camera stayed low and I took a couple more pictures as inconspicuously as possible, firing from my hip. After one run through the market, I was done. I was done with the crowded structure and with the added stress I put on myself by trying to photograph them.

I made my way back to the car thankful for my departure from the crowd. I could breathe again and my first and last attempt at street photography was complete. At home, I reviewed the results of my adventure. Several of the pictures I really liked. Based on the results I thought it’s something I should attempt again sometime. I know I prefer the open and unfettered world in which landscape photography thrives but you can’t grow without pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe someday I’ll attempt Street Photography again but that someday probably won’t be soon. After all it’s been 3 years since this first attempt and I’ve not given it another go yet.

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