I hopped onto the sky train on Saturday evening to join some photographers on an early evening Street Photography session in Vancouver’s famous China Town.  As it was a low light situation I decided to lug my handy tripod with me.  For some reason I just can’t seem to get into using that thing.  I find it cumbersome to set up and by the time I am ready I have lost whatever I was going to photograph.  On this shoot I only used the tripod for two of the shots the rest of the shots I did handheld with a big 70-200mm lens on the camera. All shots are in Aperture priority mode. Settings for feature image above. f/5.7 1/320sec 75mm ISO 800 shot handheld. Below is one of the shots with the tripod.  This was taken in a hidden area behind the main China Town buildings usually accessed only by locals with a key for the gate.  Its easy to see how the rumours of “tunnels” between the buildings in China Town got spread in connection with the popular myths about gambling rooms.

With Tripod f/5.0 1/6sec 70mm ISO 1250

For comparison here is a Handheld shot into the same area using a railing to brace my elbows on and pressing the viewfinder against my eyebrow to really anchor the camera.

Handheld shot f/5.0 1/4sec 70mm ISO 1250

Using the railing put the camera in a different position and changed the composition of the shot slightly. In addition there was less light as the lens is aiming lower so the shutter speed is even slower than the tripod version.  I do think the tripod shot is a bit sharper details of course but I am really surprised at the 1/4sec handheld shot with a massive lens. 😀

For the next handheld shot taken in the street . I used what I call the “Sniper Position”.  Resting the lens on my left forearm held out while grabbing my right shoulder with my left hand to make a stable platform for the “barrel” of the telephoto lens. I then use the right hand to punch the trigger.  Framing the shot in advance helps this work out with auto focus doing the work to complete the shot.

Handheld Sniper Position f/5.7 1/40sec 200mm ISO 800

Next is a better shot I got from the same position a second after just re framing and then Cropping out the gal on the left as she entered a short construction tunnel.  I think I got a little extra bounce light off the window that boosted my shutter speed a bit. Nice candid full length portrait.

Handheld sniper position f/5.7 1/80sec 70mm ISO 800

For the next shot I went down on my right knee and braced my left elbow on my left knee  creating a stable camera position to shoot with. When shooting like this I tend to jam the viewfinder against my eyebrow a bit to really anchor the camera solidly.

Kneeling Position f/5.7 1/50sec 169mm ISO 800

This next shot was difficult as it was the last shot of the evening and very dark out.  I spotted this old white guy standing next to some “anti fascist zone” graffiti. Kind of an edgy social commentary photo.  I used what I call the “turret” method.  I placed my left forearm on top of a parking meter and rested the lens barrel on my forearm. I just pivoted the camera  around with my right hand looking for opportunities.  I am surprised it turned out decent with such a slow shutter speed.

Turret position f/2.8 1/5sec 188mm ISO 800

Next a photo of one of the classic Tong heritage buildings. These societies were set up to protect and assist people with a common family background and connection to the same geographic region in China.

Handheld shot f/5.7 1/60sec 70mm ISO 800

And lastly, no trip to China Town would be complete with out a message from the great master himself Bruce Lee. I love how chairman Mao banner shows through providing a juxtaposition of ideologies.  “Jeet Kun Do. The art of fighting without fighting”

Handheld shot f/5.7 1/100sec 175mm ISO 800

In summary if you are careful and utilize the camera holding methods I learned from Bruce Lee you can get some low light street photography shots without the trouble of lugging a tripod. I would have missed many shots if I had been fiddling with a tripod for example  Interesting shots like this suspicious Scotsman in China Town.

Handheld shot f/5.7 1/30sec 200mm ISO 800

Very Strange. lol He was walking very fast and I had to pan in order to catch him at all.  I got his head in focus as that’s what I spot metered on, however everything else was moving. Still an interesting shot. 😉