Sometimes your in a place that is very crowded and want to take some images. With today's copyright you may get into the trouble of not having a model-release if you want sell this images afterwards. Or you are like me and don't want to have some recognizable people in the shot anyway. But what if your in a crowded city like New York? Let me give you a tip.
First of all had to be said, you can't do any magic and let the people disappear completely. Well, in fact, its possible but that requires a lot of images and photoshop-work. Thats no a very handy option whilst on sight-seeing. Thats why I took another approach to this.
Let me take you back a few years where I got confronted with that problem for the first time. It was during summer in the south of France. The south of France is in that time very crowded, but I didn't expect so many people in a castle somewhere out in the nowhere. Anyway, I framed my shot, with a bridge in the foreground and the castle in the background and waited until nobody crosses the bridge to capture the scene. I waited for a long time but never got the desired window that nobody stood in that bridge. So I decided to take another approach and mounted an 10-stop-ND-Filter, the Lee Big Stopper. I was thinking, that this renders out all the people. I found the right exposure, took a 30 second photo and got - a little bit to my disappointment then - this:
I was astonished to see the people blurred in the image. That beside, I also liked the results, because it gave the image an idea how crowded this place is, gives it some life and dynamic and the effect is quite cool. With a tripod and enough time, you can get this results. But again, it's not practical if you in a city, walking all day around exploring. So I had to come up with a new idea for my next trip to New York City.
My idea for that New York-Trip was to blur all people in the frame when I don't want them to be in focus. It was obvious that I had to reduce the shutter-speed quite a bit but didn't want running around with an 10-Stop-ND-Filter and a tripod. After some research I found out, that moving people get blurred with a shutter-speed from around 1/4 to 1/6 of a second as long as they don't walk straight towards you. Thats quick enough to allow me to take handheld-shots. And so I boarded the airplane to New York and hit the streets there.
What I had with my was the following setup: Canon EOS 5D Mark3 with the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM II Lens. On top of the lens I mounted and 3-Stop-Soft-ND-Filter to hold down the sky and the overall exposure (its quite bright in august). I set the ISO to 50 and worked in Av-Mode (Aperture-Priority). As the sun was shining all day, I had my aparture always around f/8, but adjusted it with a half stop up or down to get to my desired exposure of 1/6" second.
It would also work in the Tv-Mode, setting the shutter-speed to 1/6" and let the camera adjust the aperture. That's probably a bit easier but I usually work in the Av-Mode, thats why I decided on that way. Further you will get the same results in full-manuell.
With that setting, most people moving are blurred out in the image. Of course, 1/6" is not always working handheld and you have to take two or three exposures to get a sharp image. It helps to hold your breath whilst clicking the shutter, that reduces a lot of vibrations. And with some time you will get better and better and need only now and then to take more than one exposure.
Here are a few of the results I get with this method:
I got so into it and liked the effect so much, that I started to take pictures with moving people in it everywhere. This example below was captured in the Guggenheim-Museum and was intended to be with the people passing by. Unfortunately all people where to kind and stopped walking as soon as they saw me sitting on the floor with the camera pointed to the image on the wall. I had to encourage them to walk by and took also quite a while to get the desired shot.
If you liked the pictures and want to see more of my work, please head over to my website matthiasbader.ch. Some of the images are also available as print in my online-shop and I am on the following social-media-channels:
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