Our friend, Leonardo Carrizo, is a multi-media storyteller who travels around the world capturing the story behind the destination. Recently, he took the Fujifilm X-Pro2 on a photographic journey to Ecuador.
Ecuador feels like a second home to me by now, I traveled to Ecuador over seven times covering most of its diverse regions and cultures. Even the exotic Galapagos Islands feel familiar to me now. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t pass the opportunity to go back again. I’m actually going back to the Galapagos this December. The people, the landscapes and the culture are amazing and a great reason to keep going back.
I love doing street photography in the Historical Center of Quito. There are hundreds of people walking from place to place, old churches, small shops, and neighborhoods with unique architecture. There is always something new to find and there is no better way to discover new places than by doing street photography.
Street photography has a special place in my heart. It brings back memories of walking down High Street in Columbus, shooting with Fujifilm Neopan and Acros film on a 35mm rangefinder camera. A rangefinder camera and a fixed lens, that’s all you need for street photography. The small and compact rangefinder cameras are non-obstructive and less intimidating than a big DSLR camera. The rest is about the craft of photography, light and the photographer. To me the photographic process has always been more about “feeling it” and shooting with your heart than anything else. In street photography, you have to be observant, patient, discreet in certain situations and engaging in other situations. I tell my students at OSU that if they want to be good photographers they need to develop a sense of curiosity. It will help you get into all kinds of adventures.
I was very fortunate because Midwest Photo let me borrow a Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 35mm f/2 lens for my trips. This camera looks and feels like a film rangefinder camera in your hands. If you shot with a rangefinder camera before you know the feeling and the X-Pro2 will take you there and bring back memories. The 35mm lens on the mirrorless body is equivalent to a 50mm lens in film. Maybe it is nostalgia but I miss shooting black and white film. Lucky for me the Fujifilm X-Pro2 has a few monochrome options and it actually can simulate Fuji’s popular 35mm films. The quality and tonal range with the film simulator is incredible. This combination makes the Fujifilm X-Pro2 perfect camera for street photography.
So now let me take you on a tour of Quito, at least Quito the way I see it while doing street photography. I’ll tell you the story behind the images with a few tips. All the images were captured using the Fujifilm X-Pro2
Photograph your neighborhood
Location: San Marcos neighborhood, Quito.
Junín street, San Marcos neighborhood, Quito.
San Marcos is my favorite neighborhood in Quito. I have spoken about it in previous posts because there are few places like this left near Quito’s Historical Center. The neighborhood is pretty much on Junín Street where you can, of course, find the church of San Marcos with a small plaza in front of the church. As you walk along the main street you can find tiny grocery stores, small local restaurants and people outside the Spanish Colonial buildings talking to their friends. Everybody greets each other with a “Buenos días, buenas tardes and buenas noches.” This makes San Marcos unique, people holding on to their traditions. For example, there are several local artisan shops along Junín Street. It’s common to see the guitar maker sitting outside his shop sanding a guitar or the woodcarver sitting behind his table meticulously working a small piece of wood. I made an effort to always say “hello” and engage in conversation with the local people. The neighborhood is full of interesting characters with great stories. I think it’s important to make connections with people and places not only in photography but also in life. In the photo above this man was closing the shop where he works. They sell antiques there and I have spoken to him before in the store. When I took the photo, I was just walking down the street. He said hello, I said hello and made the image. It’s a simple slice of life image, the end of the workday in San Marcos.
Don’t be shy
Location: Independence Plaza, Historical Center, Quito.
The image above is not the image I really wanted to make but the connection with the people was amazing. The Amazonas Barbershop is actually under the Carondelet Palace facing Quito’s Independence Plaza in the Historical Center of the city. The Carondelet Palace is Ecuador’s White House. There are several small shops under the palace selling souvenirs but the barbershop was the most interesting and less “touristy”. Try to avoid being shy when doing street photography. I peeked inside the shop via a small door and found two barbers without clients, cleaning up. I started a conversation to find out more about them and the shop. The Barber shop has been around for a long time and it is an iconic place of the city. The barbers were very friendly but time was not on my side; they were done for the day. Even so, they agreed to let me take a few quick photos and to come back another day. Photographically, I wanted candid moments, perhaps them interacting with customers but it’s a privilege when people share their time, stories and let you photograph them. I think you can get a sense of the friendliness of the character in the photograph.
Watch for behavior
Location: Meneses and Sons Cafeteria and Restaurant, Historical Center, Quito
I encourage my students to always carry a camera because you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to make a nice image. Mirrorless cameras, like the Fujifilm X-Pro2 are small and appear informal so it’s a lot easier to carry around the city. I was at the Meneses and Sons Cafeteria and Restaurant on Chile street buying bread when I noticed people gazing at the storefront as they walked by the store. They were attracted to the display of cakes and pastries. It was very interesting to see how people would change their facial expressions reacting to the delicious temptations. Therefore, I decided to stay inside the bakery and took several photographs of people gazing at cakes like the kid in the image above. His expression of surprise and wonder feels universal; who doesn’t like cake! This makes the image easy to read and we can associate with the child’s emotion. Aiming your camera on human behavior is a powerful approach to street photography because you can capture human emotions which are cross-cultural.
Diagonal lines and value
Location: Steps of Plaza of Saint Francis, Historical Center, Quito.
As you probably noticed by now this is not your typical photo tour. I’m not showing you famous buildings and sites of Quito. Instead, I’m showing you images around these places but that’s what’s great about street photography, you can do it anywhere. It’s more about people watching and composition. Using diagonals lines for composition is as common as the rule of thirds. It might not sound very insightful but they both work. I do like to add a few more details about it as I do with my students. Diagonal lines work because they cut across the frame breaking the familiar, sometimes monotonous, horizontal and vertical lines in our environment. We also have the tendency to follow lines so give your audience something to find at the end of the line, so to speak. In this case they take to you to a person. Lines can be actual lines or implied lines leading the eyes across the frame. Value is the lightness (tint) or darkness (shade) of a color. In a black and white image the value ranges from white all the way to black. What’s important to know is that value can be used to create balance in an image and the darker the value the heavier that area is visually in the image. Therefore, you typically want to have the darker (heavier value) of an image at the bottom and the lighter parts above like in the image above.
Location: La Ronda, Historical Center, Quito.
This is not new or news but with progress old trades disappear. When people do travel photography, they are typically looking for something they can’t find at home. We look for something unique in the landscape and in the people. When it comes to people we focus on traditions and culture different from our own. I believe there is a bit of nostalgia for the way things used to be and I find that photographing tradesmen also has the same impact. For example, in the image above, Luis Lopez is a hat maker and owner of Humacatama in La Ronda. His family has been working in Quito since 1940 but the family trade started with his grandfather in the 1920s. La Ronda is also a very traditional street in Quito’s Historical Center where people go at night to have a canelazo (an Andean hot alcoholic beverage with cinnamon), listen to live music and hang out with friends. Don’t be afraid to ask people for a portrait. Once they give you the OK, you have a few minutes probably seconds to make a portrait. Like in the image above, I had little time but I took advantage of that time and moved the subject to the best light and background. I wanted to show environment where Mr. Lopez makes the hats so the bench table at the back was the best place for this portrait.
Entrance to the La Ronda street in Quito’s Historical Center.
Move around and don’t be afraid of the dark.
Location: La Estacion bar and live music. Quito
La Estacion (the Station) is a hip bar with live music in Quito’s center north area. It describes itself as a multicultural space and home to artists. This place has a cool vibe, it’s a great place to relax with friends, taste local craft beer and listen to music. The decoration is a mixture of vintage items and artwork hanging from the walls and inside shelves. On this particular evening, we were delighted by a talented French singer-songwriter named Francesca Blachard. To set the ambiance the light was dimmed and provided a great opportunity to test the X-Pro2’s impressive high ISO. At first, I was just playing and pushing the camera’s ISO in the low light environment. In such spaces, you look to light sources like the spotlight illuminating the singer on stage. This creates strong contrast because you can let everything else be underexposed. I didn’t have a problem shooting at ISO 2,500 for the image above of Francesca on stage. The image above is your standard image that anybody can take from their table.
If you are in a location that’s visually interesting you have to look for the details that make it unique. I noticed this very cool installation/drawing on a wall that I needed to capture. The portrait of the man’s face was drawn with charcoal pencils on old books nailed to the walk. The facial details are in the pages and covers of several books. Where the left eye is supposed to be the artist instead worked around a hole in the wall bringing together the wall, the books and drawing. I love this piece of art. I moved in for the shot and again the installation light helped but I was also able to shoot at ISO 2,500.
Individually those images are fine. If I was working for a newspaper covering this event I would have to “work the room.” It would be very easy to tell a short story of the singer and the venue with a few images for different points of view by moving around the stage. Those images would be part of a web gallery but in print journalism you are looking for one image since space is limited. And I did take enough images for a gallery but I wanted to capture the drawing and the singer in one frame. So, I had to move around the stage, change angles and points of view, work with foreground elements and backgrounds. Eventually, I moved outside the venue to the patio. This gave me the opportunity to peek into the show and the ability to capture what I wanted in one frame in an interesting way.
Quito has so much to offer that I feel I only scratched the surface. This visual tour of the city was only but a small sample of images of what’s possible. I hope it was sufficient to give you a sense of the city while doing street photography. I truly enjoyed shooting with the Fujifilm X-Pro2. It is a great camera for street photography and I’m very grateful to Midwest Photo for allowing me to reminisce with it. I hope you remember some of my tips help you the next time you are taking photos on High Street or anywhere in the world. If not, don’t worry just shoot from your heart.
Looking across from San Marcos to La Tola neighborhood.