"The world is not as boring as you think", tea with Miranti session with Nico Harold
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Welcome to the first-ever session of Tea with Miranti, a session where I talk with my fellow photographers and get some insights from them about their experience, tips for new photographers, and other things related to photography. It will be a more casual talk and not heavily technical, something that you can read while you're about to fall asleep on the bed ow while you're standing on the subway.
Without too much introduction, please enjoy the first Tea with Miranti session with my fellow street photographer, Nico Harold. Nico resides in Jakarta and has been doing street photography in the past 3.5 years. He often writes about his views and also some technique in street photography on his blog.
Q: Hi Nico! So how did you ended up becoming a photographer? What’s your first exposure to photography?
Before I was into photography, I really enjoyed taking shots with my mobile phone. I like walking and wandering around, taking shots of some city views. At that time, I didn't know that it was called street photography.
Then one time, a friend suggested me to buy a camera, and I ended up buying Fujifilm X-T1 with lens Fujinon 35mm F2. Since then, I can't stop bringing my camera with me every day. I take shots almost every day, and I really enjoyed it!
During my early days learning photography, I learned a lot from Eric Kim's blog, especially on street photography philosophy, tips, and trick. I do not always like his photos, but I really like the philosophy and why and how he takes shots. As for visual, I also got a lot of inspiration from 500px and Instagram, Brandon Wong's and Craig Whitehead's Instagram, to name a few. Why I like them, because of their approach in street photography. They played with silhouette, mystery subject, geometry, simplicity, street but elegant. Quite different from the majority of street photography in Indonesia that usually plays with layering, shows many elements in a photo, and tries to capture quite a lot of things in a scene. I started to found what I like in street photography.
Q: What about other photographers or probably other genres? Whose works inspired you the most?
A: Lots of people said that we should learn from the classic street photographers. I really like Saul Leiter and Fan Ho's works, they play a lot with silhouette and shadows, their works looks simple, but not as simple as what we think. They are great, but I also aware that the context and environment during their eras are different from nowadays, thus creates different images with what we create now. I often feel more relatable to see works of present photographers.
I also notice that every country has its own street photography characteristics. You can see the difference between Thailand street photography with India for example, but from all of them, I really like British street photography the most, like Brandon Wong, Craig Whitehead, Allan Schaller, Mark Fearnley, and Belinda Corney works.
Q: Now could you tell us a bit about your works?
So my works focus on street photography. Street photography has a number of sub-genre, like focus on documentary, fine art, or focus on emotion, my works are more to fine art.
For me, street photography is about the decisive moment, and decisive moment for me is when the universe decides to combine a number of elements in a good timing, seen from a good angle, and has artistic content in it. So it's not always about moments that we seek like waiting for a person to fall, etc. There are three things that I see when I shoot: composition, lighting, and action. I tend to wait for a moment to happen instead of searching for a moment, but when you wait, you have to be logical as well. For example, once you have the scene with good lighting, if you know it's a pretty quiet place with not many actions or people passing by, then why should you wait for hours for something to happen? While in other areas, for example, there are more actions happening, then we can play with the angle, etc.
I once did that. During my early days exploring photography, I was walking around, found a scene, and waiting for 1.5 hours, and nothing happened, and it really ruined my mood. I went back home without any shots and a pretty bad mood. From there, I learned that doing street photography, we need to be patient. We might not get what we expect. But the more I do street photography, the more I accept that it's fine if we do not get any shot after a photo walk. I also think mood really impacts your shots. If you're in a bad mood, you kind of have this feeling of in a rush, and it really affects your approach when shooting.
I enjoy street without people, but for me, I prefer a scene with action in it, something that moves, not always people.
Q: Could you show us some of your favourite shots?
That's a pretty difficult question, I like a lot of my shots :D But I like this one.
Visually, I really like the colour of this shot. I think colour has an impact on mood, it makes the photo looks more dynamic. This also shows all three things that I search for, composition, lighting, and action. I took this shot on my workplace. I've been passing through this area for million times, and after eight years here, this is the first time I found a scene like this. This shot proves that:
1. bring your camera every day works, you never know what will happen;
2. street photography can happen anywhere, even in the most boring place like your workplace. I received a lot of questions on where I shot this, this was in Jakarta, not in New York, not in any other city.
I also really like this shot:
It has all three components that I look for: composition, lighting, and action. I really like the colour of the sun here, it really brings the mood. I used a zoom lens for this shot, using F8. The people were playing football, so I had to take the photo from quite afar.
Q: Next question, what do you think about post-processing? How important it is and how do you do it?
Post-processing is important to me because I do not really like shots with vivid and vibrant colour, which is commonly found in Indonesia. People sometimes tend to do post-processing to aim a look that looks post-pro-ed, clarity increased so it looks detailed and sharp, while I do post-processing to make it look more natural. I do the usual in post-processing like exposure, shadow, highlight, white, black, etc, the standard. I use Lightroom to do my edits, not Photoshop.
Q: Do you ever think you will ever get bored with taking shots?
So far no. As long as I still use the decisive moment principle that I believe in, I don't think street photography will ever be boring.
Q: I think you often get this question quite often, but could you please tell us about your gear?
I use Fujifilm camera. When I bought my camera for the first time, I saw a lot of different cameras. Why I choose Fujifilm at that time because I think the control is ergonomics, logical. Ergonomics and handling are two things that I look the most. It's easy to use as well for me, I learned to use it pretty fast.
At the moment I'm using Fujifilm X-T30 and X-T2, with lens 16mm F2.8, 23mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, and 56mm F1.2. I am actively using all of them, I prefer to use a prime lens, it pushes me to be more creative. I also think 23mm (APS-C) is one of the most versatile focal lengths. The set up is pretty small, it is not intimidating when I use it on the street.
Once I have a friend who said, "If you use 56mm (APS-C), it's gonna be pretty easy to get a good shot." So I challenged him, "let's do a photo walk". Then after two hours, we ate and sat and he said, "Dang I didn't get any shots!". The point is, it's not about the lens that you use, that the more zoom the easier it gets, it's about your eyes, your habit, and your preferences, what you are looking for in a scene.
Q: Some advice for people who just started learning photography...
1. Always be patient. Even when you already finished reading thousands of blogs it won't make your shots great. Even when you get a scene with good lighting, you might not get good shots. Even when you already take shots for years, your shots might be still not great yet. Be patient and don't give up.
2. Bring your camera with you every day. "Camera is your new wristwatch", I completely agree with that.
3. Dare to experiment. For example, if you kind of used to one focal length, don't be afraid to try other focal lengths, or if you already used to certain composition, feel free to explore more. The more you explore, the more you understand what you really like.
4. The rest, feel free to read it on my blog :)
Q: And what about next, what would you like to do? Like a project, or photo book?
I received a lot of inquiries about my works, how did you do that? How can you see that? Even though for me it looks pretty simple, it's not magical, everyone can do it. I want to be able to share with more people in the simplest form. That's why I started creating videos of behind the scene on how I took shots. The world is interesting, it's not as boring as you think. For example, there's a stair in a station, it might look boring and people just pass it through every day like that, but with good lighting and good timing, it could turn into an art. I want people to be able to do that. So I see photography as something that visually artistic.
(I gave Nico two items every question, and he has to choose quickly one that he prefers)
colour or BW
digital or analog
landscape or portrait (orientation)
street photography or portrait photography
morning or afternoon
urban or rural
mountain or beach
wide or tele
Classic Chrome or Proneg Hi
Mark Fearnley or Fan Ho
Thank you very much for the session, Nico!
And for the readers, hope you get some insights on street photography from this post.