Three Street Stories - How I got the shot #1

Updated: Feb 5

Welcome to my eyeballs, and come and take a virtual walk with me! Polly Rusyn here, and in this series I’m going to walk you through some of my favourite photographs, sharing my thought process along with how I got the shot. You can also find shorter versions of these stories on The Photo Weekender Instagram.

We are so used to looking at photos for a second or two before moving to the next one, so before you read the story behind the picture spend a bit longer on the picture itself, and try to imagine being faced with the scene…. And then when you read about it you may discover you and I are vibing in the way we construct images, or in the way we see potential in what is in front of us, or you may find there’s something new you can take away.

Image © Polly Rusyn. All rights reserved.

I know Gdansk very well, having lived there for 9 months several years ago, as well as running Weekenders there. But this bridge was a new addition to the city in the summer of 2019, and a very welcome one, as straight away I knew it had a lot of potential for photographs. Aside from this photo, I actually took several more in the same spot making the most out of the different elements on offer.

The first thing that attracted me to this scene was how graphic it was. The lines, the wheel, the shadows (which are of course weather and time of day dependant)… all the things that I look out for, and please my eye! The first thing I always do in this kind of location is to figure out the best place to position myself, and from which vantage point I should shoot. I knew the location was going to be the star of the show so it was important to get it right.

I figured a low angle with the diagonal shadow carefully positioned in one corner was the way to go (this was pretty tough on my knees, but street photographers often suffer for their art!). So once I was happy with my composition, and positioning, I waited. My patience (and pain) paid off when these white trousers stepped into the scene, with just enough information in the owner’s shadow to tell me a bit more about her. Only afterwards when I looked closely did I see the tiny head framed in her knee pit, which for me was a little bit of icing on the cake!

Image © Polly Rusyn. All rights reserved.

My first impression of Trevi Fountain was of how ridiculously crowded and busy it was (those were the days!), and I thought that making a decent photo would be impossible. I skirted the edges trying to figure things out (street photography is often a problem solving exercise), and I realised I needed to simplify things as much as I could, so I worked my way into the crowd looking for contrasting light and shade as a starting point.

I spotted a tourist trying on a plastic Roman Centurion helmet, so not only was it an unusual headdress in modern times it was also quintessentially Roman, and the red of the feathers really stood out (as red always does of course!). I knew this would be something that could potentially make an interesting photo, so I pushed through to get closer, and had just enough time to frame him through the silhouettes of the people between us.

There’s a shot that I love by Gueorgui Pinkhassov with a cockerel with a red “comb” in a pocket of light amidst a bunch of silhouetted people in the shade… This image sprung to mind when I saw how the scene was taking shape in front of me. I managed to take three or four shots before he was told to take the helmet off by the seller! If you look closely I’ve managed to capture a figure in the window opposite. Wish he’d been wearing red so I didn’t have to point him out to you though!

Image © Polly Rusyn. All rights reserved.

The Photo Weekender hasn’t yet done a workshop in Tokyo, which is where this picture was shot, however I am very fond of legs shots, and even have a collection of them on my portfolio website and they are great subjects for people starting out in street photography because the pressure is off in photographing faces! Although finding interesting legs and still thinking about composition is what makes a difference.

Here is a pair I spotted a few years ago. Not only was the edgy ankle socks and sandal combo most intriguing (wish I could pull it off), but the light was really beautiful late that afternoon. I just happened to glance down whilst waiting for the traffic lights to change at a pedestrian crossing. Photos can appear everywhere so always be ready!

I had a little bit of time to compose the shot as the owner of the legs was shifting her weight from foot to foot, while she was waiting, so I could try out different framing options. I chose this shot out of all the frames I took was because the two orange squares on the pavement mirror the positioning of her feet, in those wonderful orange socks, so there’s a subtle visual connection, as well as the legs being interesting by themselves.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” - Ansell Adams

All photographs made with Fujifilm cameras. Polly Rusyn is the Boss at The Photo Weekender and an Official Fujifilm X-Photographer. All the pictures in this post are copyrighted. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owner.

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