How My Street Photography Improved During Covid & Quarantine

It’s hard to believe we are well past a year since the initial COVID lock down. While the entire world stayed indoors, I took the opportunity (safely of course!) to document the emptiness and the changes within my own community. Seeing the opposite of the typical tourist filled streets of Hawaii made me appreciate the calmness and beauty of my home.

My pandemic photo walks were always fairly short. Street photography usually has such vivid subjects, but in midst of quarantine everything was empty and bare. I didn’t get frustrated however, because I knew whatever photo I captured would be a documentation of this unprecedented piece of history.

In 2018 and 2019, I could count on one hand the amount of times I went out to shoot. I had wrapped up my feature documentary Fill The Frame (if you haven’t seen it check it out) and I went on hiatus to reset. Coming into 2020 I was hungry and motivated to get back on the streets to build my YouTube channel (Subscribe HERE) and to attempt to get that one perfect shot. My Olympus M5 Mark ii of 6 years was laid to rest and I invested in new gear like the DJI Osmo Pocket to record more POV. Of course we all know what happened next. But that didn’t deter me.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson

Prior to COVID I would say my approach for shooting the streets would be to aimlessly walk and try to cover as much ground as I had energy for. I would leave it up to the street photography gods that I would come across an interesting person or a gripping scene or situation. However, with much less foot traffic or action happening out in public I slowly adjusted my game plan. My good friend Paul Kessel who has had an amazing run despite the setbacks of 2020, winning 1st place in singles competition for the Miami Street Photography Festival among being a finalist in many other competitions, has always given me advice to find a scene. Either a scene with good lighting or a good background; if there’s both that’s when the magic happens. The key is patience and to let the scene slowly populate. To walk aimlessly and hope to come across an interesting person or situation relies too much on luck and things out of your control. Being the young punk that I am, I brushed off his advice, not that I didn’t trust or believe what he was telling me was true, but rather I felt like I didn’t need to change my style. Most people change when they are forced to or when life hits them in the face. The pandemic did just that, it hit me in the face and forced me to change my street photography approach and correct my bad habits.

Now in 2021, I’m back to being comfortable out shooting the streets again. You’d think you can rely on a lot on muscle memory but that was untrue for me. Confidence and knowing your camera (I mostly worked with a Ricoh GR III which took me a while to get used to) and your camera knowing you are two most underrated things in street photography. I had to relearn how to shoot and that challenge made things fun and fresh again. Completing Fill The Frame was a big weight off my shoulders and only now could I shift my focus elsewhere, primarily taking pictures and producing original content on YouTube.

So this is a reminder to always try new things, go outside your comfort zone, experiment to see what works for you and ditch the things that don’t work for you. Change can seem daunting but can be very rewarding.