The Weekly Poll
March 13, 2000
This week's question was:
What tips can you give for shooting clandestine or candid shots?
You may mention cameras, hardware, film and/or techniques.
advise for sneaky shooting?
The magician's tricks are best -- distraction, looking another direction, having your left hand doing one thing while the right hand does another works well. Even just standing on the street with your feet pointing one way while you shoot another works well.
Elliott Erwitt, who uses rangefinder Leicas, says he shoots in museums all the time, even when he's not supposed to, by just being cautious, being aware when the guard's attention is elsewhere, sometimes having a friend engage the guard in conversation, previsualizing the picture and waiting until the last second to aim and fire. Dress in subdued clothes, the sort of thing nobody notices. Be the guy nobody can remember even before you've left the room.
And it really helps to have a camera that doesn't look like what people expect a camera to look like. Older cameras, including Leicas and Minoxi, have a huge advantage in this regard because everyone thinks a camera is some huge thing with flashes and long lenses that makes a lot of noise and light, going "crash!-wirrr--crash!--wirrr" all the time. Something that just goes "...ck!..." isn't noticed. Today someone mistook my Minox IIIs for some sort of pager even after I'd openly taken several shots in a close setting. I've been using it around the office for a month and the boss never noticed.
First, would it be purile to point out the necessity of available light in most of these circumstances? Nothing draws unwanted attention quite like a flash.
It is worthwhile to distinguish between candid and clandistine.
Candid shots are those taken of people behaving naturally, in natural situations. They may or may not be aware that a camera is present, but must be unaware that they are being photographed at that particular time.
Clandistine shots require that the subject be photographed without anyone else being aware. This includes photographs in public situations where the camera is secreted, or in private situations where the camera may be quite in evidence, but must be covertly carried in or out.
Of course, there is some overlap in technique. Candid and public clandistine shots generally require a very quiet shutter. Even a normally loud room can have an embarassing silence at the very moment you push the shutter.
For this reason, I find the Minox 8X11 unacceptable UNLESS I am absolutely sure I cannot be overheard. If I do choose to use the Minox, few cameras are easier to disguise - candy bar wrappers, small boxes, almost any prop will privide cover. The field of view is also wide enough to pull off shots aimed in the general direction. Putting it up to the eye to use the viewfinder will also create unneeded attention. The reflex finder used at arm's length, and the right angle finder used close to the eye are quite viable and useful accessories in candid situations.
For truly candid shots, where silence is golden, the Minox GTE, GTX, or whatever it is called now is unexcelled. One can slip it out of a pocket, cradle it in the hand,use hyperfocal distance to include almost everything, and trust to the autoexposure. You can sit it on a table in front of you and fire away with almost no one being aware. Even using the viewfinder is so quick that hardly anyone will notice.
Not being a spy, I will only point out that the Minox EC, or its newer version whose name eludes me, stands alone for being concealable, having autoexposure, good sharp lens with plenty of depth of field that requires no focusing, AND WILL PASS THROUGH METAL DETECTORS. Almost useless for documents, however.
My tip for semi-clandestine and candid snaps: Use a Minox EC/ECX, learn to open it with one hand and shoot without looking through the finder (instinctive pointing), call the subject's attention to something else and shoot, don't ever look to the camera.
Wolfgang Fischer <firstname.lastname@example.org>