While testing the Rokinon 35mm f1.4 and picking up the Lomo Lubitel 166+ for review, I went on a photo walk though NYC. It was something new for me, a photo walk with a purely manual focus lens. It is a totally different style of photographic Kung Fu. It really makes you appreciate auto focus. It’s a different way of seeing, which leads to real changes in how you shoot.
Special gear is not needed. Most lenses have manual focus rings. It is up to you to decide what you are going to use. When manually focusing, you want to have a comfortable focus ring. If you can easily grip and move it, the lens will work out well. Most DSLRs, mirror-less cameras, and even some point and shoots have the ability to switch over to manual focus. If you want a completely manual lens there are plenty of choices available from companies like Rokinon ,Vivitar and Zeiss. There are plenty of used and vintage lenses available also.
This has to be thought about in a different way while manually focusing and shooting street photography. Less is more. For any decent type of speed, you need practice and an understanding of depth of field. Pick a focus point and stick with it; compose your shot by moving the camera. You basically rely on the technology less.
You almost have to become a ninja. This is something that needs a bit of practice. When photo walking, I normally rely on the auto focus to quickly get the shot. However when manually focusing, you have to be willing to miss the shot if you are not fast enough and move on to the next.
You are going to miss moments, it happens. Nevertheless you can minimizes losses adjusting how you think. You have to prejudge things. You cannot think about what’s happening now. You have to obligate yourself to think, “what is going to happen.” This gives you a moment to breathe and focus.
Think about where you are shooting
You want to shoot in open spaces if it helps you see things better. In a high capacity area, you do not have time to think. Unless you are a focusing ninja, you need mobility. You have to be able to easily move and see your subject. In a city like New York, where I was shooting, that was hard at times and I did miss some cool shots. Conversely, through spacing, I was able to get shots I would of missed if just focused on what was right in front of me .
If you have a moment, go out and turn off your auto focus. Take a chance. Yes, it will feel uneasy at first. You do not really need special lenses for this. When you focus manually, a little more of ‘you’ will be in the image. Coincidentally, you will appreciate all the technology at your disposal just a little bit more.
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