I took this photo back in September of 2014 when I was still living in Toronto. Earlier that year, I changed my camera system from Canon to Olympus, drawn to the smaller size and lighter weight of the Micro Four Thirds system. I really enjoyed going for walks around Toronto with the new camera and was trying to get better at street photography.

After a few months with the new camera, an Olympus OM-D EM-10, I decided to purchase my first new lens for it. I chose the Olympus 17mm f1.8, as it was recommended for street photography, due to the focal length and the small size of the lens itself. This lens and camera combination was small and not intimidating, both for me and for those around me who might see me shooting with it.

A few days after purchasing the lens, I was walking down Parliament Street. A little north of Gerrard Street, I noticed a restaurant that was below street level, accessible via a set of stairs. I walked over and peered down over the edge to find people sitting at tables, enjoying their dinners and drinks. Directly below me looked to be a nice picture opportunity, but I chickened out, as I was too afraid to actually take a picture.

As I mentioned earlier, I was really getting into street photography, but I was always nervous about having people in my photos, whether they were looking at me or not. I would often miss what I thought were chances at good pictures because I hesitated too long or didn’t bother taking a photo at all.

I just continued walking south down Parliament, but then soon after started to have a little conversation with myself. A conversation about how I need to get past the fear and to not be afraid to take pictures with people in them.

Eventually I must have gotten through to myself as I decided that I would go back and try to take a picture. By this point, I was already further south on Parliament, so I made my way back to the spot, in a roundabout way, trying not to be too obvious. When I arrived, I was just hoping they would still be there, or I would have psyched myself up for nothing. I prepped my camera, walked to the previous spot, shyly peered over to see them still sitting there, and snapped some shots.

When I look at the shots I took directly before and after the one I chose for this blog post, I see that I took seven in total, within eight seconds. I was feeling very nervous, so I didn’t stick around very long. Of the ones I took, I liked this one best, as the gentleman at the top has his hand on his head, while in the others, he’s kind of gesturing or something, so the image isn’t as clean.

I do feel like the picture is a bit heavy on the right side, I would prefer there was a bit more on the left side to have it more balanced, but hey, I’ll take it. As well, I find the third person’s shoe a bit distracting, but overall I’m happy with the photo.

Speaking of distracting, in colour I found the plants in the foreground to be just that, which is part of the reason I chose to edit the photo in black and white. For street photography in general, I prefer black and white, but for this one, it was more of a conscious choice.

Men sitting at a table
Original image

I find that over the years I’ve enjoyed taking photos looking down from above. Partially it’s because I just like the perspective, but admittedly it’s also because it allows me to be a bit more anonymous. I’ve never really felt comfortable doing the type of street photography where you are directly interacting with people. I simply get too nervous.

I’m glad I talked myself into going back to take this photo, as it ended up being one of my more popular images. It actually won the People’s Choice award at the GTA Photography Classes photography contest that I entered in 2014! That’s a great place to take photo classes, by the way, I’ve taken a number of them, I highly recommended them if you are in Toronto.

John Salvino receiving photography prize
Me at the 2014 GTA Photography photo contest

I wish I could say that this photo made me change my outlook on taking photos of people, but no. If you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll see that I still rarely have people in my photos 🙂 And I don’t really do much street photography anymore, but maybe that will change in the future.

Don’t forget to check out my other Photos Stories blog posts here.

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