Covid Street is a unique project, which brought together street photographers from around the world in the height of the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. This book is a collection of images and captions that tells a global story, through hundreds of carefully curated moments, each of which offer insight, inspiration, and hope.

Or learn more…

itsmewalterc from Austin, Texas

The photographers, who have generously donated their time and work to this book, represent an exciting variety of perspectives and styles which lift you beyond the narrow perspectives of your media or the art establishment.

CovidStreet has been active on Instagram since March, but the goal has always been to produce a printed book from which proceeds can support Covid victims in the creative space. As of June/July 2020, it’s not too late to submit your photo; learn how below.

The book is presented as a beautiful hardcover. No expense will be spared on the printing or format, using quality printing and binding – not a digital-to-print internet service.

This special first edition will ship to you before the first anniversary of Covid-19, in December, and will include a commemorative jacket. We understand that is quite some time to wait, but by buying this special first edition now, you can ensure we — as street photographers — retain control of this special testament.

Not only that, but we’ll keep you up to date with the design and printing process regularly (but not too regularly!) and – if you choose – credit you in the book.

Rome

Without pre-selling, we would be forced to cede editorial control to an outside editor, and risk having our selection compromised by commercial interests. Buy buying now, while we’re still preparing the book, you increase our strength, giving us the option to print where free speech is valued. Never has that been more important.

While a project like this has been time-consuming and costly, profits from the sale of the book will be donated to charities tackling the repercussions of the pandemic.

Contributing photographers, among the most financially affected groups, will also receive a share of revenue.

Reported around the world…

Since we launched Covid Street in March, we’ve been widely covered by major publications in Belgium, the UK and the USA, and our hashtag has taken on a momentum of its own.

Knack Weekend
RangeFinder

If you’ve been inspired but aren’t ready to order yet…

Melissa Robinson (@Foreverseen) joins the Covid Street team in our special series.

Melissa’s story is striking because she’s travelled so far, and done so much, only to find herself having to make yet another creative change because of the onset of Covid and the lockdown.

Undeterred she has masked up and set out to volunteer in Williamsburg, New York (just North of Brooklyn) and has even captured that shooting and volunteering experience on a body-camera.

She’s also managed to capture some great lockdown images of New York, including a Grand Central station in which the pigeons have taken over.

It seems nothing can stop her.

To see more of her fashion work, check Mel’s own site, Forever Seen.

Images by Mel “Forever Seen” Robinson

Mel’s Video Volunteer Body Cam

Actually the volunteering video seemed to be unavailable, but this is another shot during the Covid pandemic.

The first thing you need to know if you’re looking for an SLR (or DSLR) in 2020 is that definitely isn’t your only choice. It was for a long time, which is why you might have heard the term. But times change.

Why do you think you want an ‘SLR’?

SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex – a ‘D’ at the front adds the word ‘Digital’. In either case what makes this kind of camera different is that you compose the photograph by looking directly through the same lens that the photo is taken. That’s the Single Lens.

The word Reflex comes from the path the light is taken on through the camera while you’re looking through the viewfinder. The principle is a little like a periscope – it comes down the lens onto a mirror, then from that mirror to your eye. (It’s a little more complicated, since a special prism is required to ensure your view is the right way up, but that’s semantics).

When you take the photo the mirror which directs the light up to the eye pops out of the way so the light can go straight to the image sensor (or film). That’s why everything goes dark in the viewfinder when you take the shot, and the camera makes quite the clicking noise.

The alternative, common on many film-era compact cameras (and ‘rangefinder’ cameras), is that you would look through an additional lens just above the ‘photography’ lens which was just for framing your shot. This approach might be thought of as like a rifle with a telescopic sight – the sight and the gun barrel are pointed in the same direction, but you’re not actually looking through the barrel.

Why isn’t an SLR necessarily best any more?

Digital technology effectively eliminates one of the big plusses of the SLR – composing through the lens. Since a digital camera uses the image sensor to provide a preview, all digital cameras (phones and compacts) allow you to compose through the main lens.

The other associated advantage of SLRs has never actually been exclusive to them – that is interchangeable lenses (the ability to swap the optical elements of the camera for ones optimised for different purposes; wide angle for interors, long zoom for wildlife, macro for close up, wide aperture portrait lenses and so on.

Over time ‘systems’ built up from the leading manufacturers. Canon owners bought Canon lenses for the Canon ‘mount’, while Nikon owners needed lenses compatible with the Nikon mount, and so on. Lenses are often more expensive than the cameras they attach to and (if looked after) last for years.

When Digital photography arrived, and image sensors slowly started to meet the standards that photographers needed, most were concerned with getting Digital SLR ‘bodies’ (the camera other than the lens) which they could fit their existing lens collections onto.

One big issue at this point which deserves an entry in itself is that image sensors need not be the same size as 35mm film. Almost all film SLRs shot 35mm film, just like most compacts and disposables of the era (ignoring APS for the moment). All you need to know now is that the term “full frame” refers to an image sensor which is the same size as 35mm film, and this was an expensive aspiration in the early days of digital.

Anyway, a digital SLR still does the whole mirror-flipping business, so the body requires the extra size to accommodate the mechanism, but realistically we no longer really need it. The upshot is the arrival of the term ‘mirrorless’.

What is a ‘mirrorless’ camera?

Technically any camera which doesn’t have an SLR mirror-flip arrangement is mirrorless (even the disposable on the table at that hipster wedding you went to), but in this context it refers to a high-end camera which still has interchangeable lenses but only has a digital viewfinder.

It’s common to have a screen on the back – like pretty much any digital compact camera – and a small digital screen in a hood in the place a traditional SLR viewfinder would be. The latter is easier to use in bright sunshine, and perhaps more re-assuring for old-school photographers, but the camera bodies can be smaller.

Perhaps the stand-out example of the mirrorless camera is the Sony A7 series. In the last decades of film Canon and Nikon had established a pretty firm dominance of the photography market, which was cemented as smaller manufacturers struggled to match their investment in digital cameras. But Canon and Nikon were also pulled by the momentum of their existing lens systems.

Sony bought struggling Konika-Minolta but quickly abandoned their SLR system for the A7 and A9 series of cameras which are mirrorless but use ‘full frame’ sensors.

Designing a new camera system from the ground up which didn’t focus the light on a point far enough back I the camera body to allow room for a SLR mirror meant a new series of lenses anyway, so Sony could have gone with any image sensor they liked. Other firms did, like Olympus, Panasonic and others did with the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system.

Smaller sensors allow for smaller lenses and lighter cameras, but also (if you assume the same resolution) smaller sensitive elements of the imaging chip means there will be more digital noise in the photo.

Sony, however, seemed to appreciate that the term ‘full frame’ was going to work for their marketing teams and allow them to get ahead of Nikon and Canon for a time. Both other firms have now developed and launched their own Mirrorless systems (with adapters to allow the use of the older lenses).

So which should I choose?

OK, so Sony have established themselves in this market, and many of the other brands have positioned themselves for certain kinds of photographer. Leica has always made iconic rangefinder cameras, so the rise and fall of digital SLRs has no doubt been of mild amusement to them, for example.

But if you were thinking of getting your first SLR, the chances are you were imaging spending roughly the same money as the entry-level SLRs with lenses were before Mirrorless brought options.

Sony A7 ii

No longer the current model (replaced with the even-more-expensive A7iii) but if you’re not especially excited by shooting 4K video this might be the choice for you. The A7 has a fantastic image sensor (bigger is better!) and focusing system, making it great for stills, and while the kit lens (lens included with the camera) is only OK given, the camera body features image stabilisation so you can shoot in less-than-perfect light without a tripod or the expense of a better lens.

Canon EOS M50 or M6 Mkii

Canon’s competitors for the Sony A7 cameras are, well, pricey. But they’ve opted to also produce a smaller mirrorless series which is targeted at the kind of market they formerly pitched their consumer Digital SLRs at. With a standard lens this can be had for less the Sony, and while it might not boast the same image quality, or offer the future advantages of Sony’s full-frame system, it is definitely a step up from that camera-phone, and additional lenses are available. It does also manage 4K if you want to look your sharpest on YouTube!

Sony A6000 series

Just as with the Canon M series, Sony offer interchangeable lens cameras which don’t blow the whole budget on a massive sensor. The A6000 series is a great start, and budget can dictate how recent the version you get is When shopping, do be careful to choose a kit that includes at least one lens!

Do you really need to swap the lens?

Swapping lenses is great for flexibility, but it can also draw you into a never-ending cycle of lens acquisition. There’s much to be said for a single purchase.

For example, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000EB is a ‘Bridge’ camera which includes a single lens which can go from pretty wide to prettifying far zoom. It can also shoot 4K video and has a fold out viewfinder and a hooded eye one. The Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is another good alternative in this space.

Guest Jacopo Rufo joins us from Italy as we explore the impact of Covid on photographers around the world.

Tom Clabots, co-founder of CovidStreet, returns to join co-hosts Adam and Tanya in what is the second of a series linked to the Covid Street project, which is also celebrating a major milestone.

In this episode, just some of the treats are:

Guest

Born in 1990 in a small village in central Italy, Jacopo is a graduate of Cinema & Visual Arts of Rome University and has spent the last decade travelling the world shooting photography for numerous clients. His personal work “Concerns life in big cities, the aim of my work is to capture the ancestral and archetypical essence of existence nowadays eclipsed by the complexity of our society.”
He has been trapped in the strict Italian lockdown and contributed some of the most popular images on Covid Street through his window.

His links.

Joining Adam Juniper & Dan M Lee this week is special guest JR DeSouza of Outex, the camera waterproofing system company. Between JR and Dan we discover a few surprising things about the ‘camera condom,’ including its uses in the Covid crisis.

We also explore setting the experience of setting up Outex, a camera equipment company built by camera enthusiasts, including the benefits (or otherwise) of running a Kickstarter.

Finally, we round off with a book give away of Dan’s latest book, Creative Photography: The Professional Edge. To take part in that, simply sign up to our email list here:

And please don’t forget to follow the Covid Street account Adam mentions…

Here’s the Outex product we discuss on the show:

Links

Listen to the Episode

In this special episode of the Podcast, Tanya Nagar returns to launch a special project with me and first-time guest Tom Clabots, a photographer based in Antwerp, Belgium.

The three of us have spent some of our isolation establishing @covidstreet, a place where we can come together and document the developing crisis around the world, while staying within the rules, and with the ultimate goal of producing a book that we can sell to raise money to help in the aftermath.

If that sounds a big ask, well, you can read more about the plan or, of course, listen to the podcast.

Chapter List

ChapterBeginsAbout
100:00Greetings, and introducing Tom Clabots.
201:10The beginning of the Covid Street idea, and why we chose Instagram to get started
308:56A bit about our early experience
414:53We finally explain the entire plan.
537:12How you can not only follow but become a part of @covidstreet.
Outtakes41:22Just some examples of how bad things could have got if we’d recorded for longer!

Some of the images we talk about

Captured by Adam Juniper and added to the feed early, this shot is discussed in the podcast under the mixed-messages about respiratory diseases observations!
An Easter bunny taking precautions, caught by co-foudner/guest Tom Clabots.

Some examples on the feed…

As well as the three of us, capturing Covid from Croydon, Leyton & Antwerp, we have been joined by a number of other photographers, who’s work you’ll find when you start to explore the Instagram feed, and our Stories.

Specifically, we’ve been joined by @i_abdulmunaff⁠ in Hydrabad, India, @joeseth.carter in London Fields, @clickte_raho, Delhi, India, @rollerzoomph ⁠in Madrid, Spain, @admphotography17 ⁠in Rome, Italy, @delcourt.charles⁠ in Brussels, @ipons⁠ in Milan, Italy, and @itsmewalterc in the USA, to name just a few. Again explore the feed to see everyone and everywhere.

Plus, if you’ve seen something we haven’t, and want to join in, have a listen, see if you like us, and (I’m sure you will), go ahead and get in touch, or just share by tagging us on your posting and we’ll call you!

This week Dan and Adam are getting used to the Lockdown, and coming up with some ways of using the time well.

After some inevitable banter – don’t worry, aggressively edited – we get down to offering some ideas for how you could use your downtime to become a better photographer with lower monthly outgoings.

Of course, you might reasonably say “I don’t have any down-time” – either you’ve just become a full-time parent-teacher, or you’ve still got a lot of work. But, for a lot of us, new work is lessening, at least for now, and we still get a few moments to get some stuff done. Between us, we’ve slashed our monthly bills without losing any services we’ll miss!

We also take a look at the Sony World Photography Awards. Given his views on competitions, it could be interesting! You can see the gallery we’re talking about here on DPReview.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure I manage to get at least a mention of my latest book! Learn more here.

Gary Winogrand (1928-1984) is an iconic street photographer, so prolific he has been called “the first digital photographer” but in truth he wasn’t a fan of being instant.

In fact, many fans think he would have absolutely hated Instagram and everything it stood for, but perhaps they’re not looking at the whole picture (sorry).

Winogrand was famed for his shots of Manhattan in the 60s, had a unique approach to processing his images which simply wouldn’t work now: He didn’t look at them for a year or longer. When he died in 1984 he had the better part of 500,000 images in his collection he’d never even seen. Why? Because he had established a workflow designed to remove his own personal emotion, and so pick better images.

Sometimes photographers mistake [their] emotion for what makes a great street photograph.

Gary Winogrand

His theory was that, if he didn’t look at the photographs for a while, he would be less influenced by his own feelings on the day they were shot. If he’d been in a good mood, he might think the picture better than it was. With time to forget what was going on, approaching the contact sheet cold, he’d make better choices. He has explained as much to his students, including O.C. Garza, who describes more of his experiences here.

Why Winogrand wasn’t ‘instant’

It definitely wouldn’t work for everyone, but the process of removing your own emotion and excitement from the photography you share has clear editorial benefits. Winogrand shot a lot of photographs – over 1 million during his lifetime according to Michael David Murphy, or about 76 stills a day while he was shooting.

Those numbers are pretty big even by modern standards when showing and sharing is free. When you’re shooting film, developing with chemicals, and printing on paper some kind of editorial control is the only way to prevent bankruptcy.

Since photographers are, for the most part, their own editors – at least in the first instance – separating personal feelings from the moment of capture and the image is tricky. Time is a great solution (at least if your memory is anything like mine).

If your work isn’t time-critical – and street photography for art or for a hobby is a great example – then it’s easy to take advantage of the same principle. Shove your day’s photos into Lightroom and forget about them for a bit.

Film canisters can be safely ignored for some time, and you can’t even see what’s on them (no thumbnails!) or they can be processed into contacts sheets then left alone. Pic: Chuttersnap

Why the world is instant

Not an especially difficult one this; digital tech has eliminated the main mechanism by which Winogrand was able to put his captures on pause – undeveloped film. Once you’d shot off images it’s hard not to view them instantly, and most cameras are now connected to the point of instant sharing (in fact most cameras are phones).

That means it takes a degree of self-restraint not to immediately look at your pictures and share them. It’s also, arguably, good practice to do so – at the very least to add captions/metadata so you know what you shot. Writing on the side of film canisters with a permanent marker was never that easy or successful an approach. Some things are better.

But you can still leave the images on a hard drive or storage location indefinitely before coming back to process them, and that might be the time for a more honest appraisal.

Adobe Lightroom Classic
The nearest equivalent to a contact sheet we have now. (Yes, that big white pile in frames 52754 onwards is a toilet roll delivery mid-COVID-19 crisis, yet sadly I didn’t manage to capture the exact moment it fell over.

Instagram actually does learn from Winogrand

At first, the idea of Instagram would seem to the anthesis of Winogrand’s one-year-wait but, in a way, Instagram has evolved a similar approach: Stories v Feed.

At first, the platform was a free-for-all; it was very much down to the user whether they used their feed to tell a living story or to simply post their finest work. Was it a portfolio or purely visual social media? Your account was whatever you wanted.

As the platform developed, the addition of the Stories feature essentially took that choice away – your living social content should go in your Stories and – logically if not explicitly – the Feed is now reserved for the better quality shots.

By subtly declaring that your Feed is for posts you’ve put some time and thought into, Instragram has effectively encouraged you to take your time over your posts, and to self-edit. It doesn’t have to be a year, but there’s no reason not to learn this from Winogrand.

Winogrand ain’t woke

Because Winogrand had a novel and successful approach to editing, doesn’t mean you need to copy everything from him.

To be clear, there is no specific accusation here, but it has to be said that Winogrand’s oft-seen ‘surprise’ approach might have more detractors now than it did at the time. His contemporary, Diane Arbus, would spend time acquainting herself with her subjects, while Winogrand is known for his ‘gotcha’ surprise style.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to argue that Winogrand’s style is the epitome of street photography. That it is street photography. But times are changing. It is definitely not the only approach, and in some cases, it can pose a risk to your career – street photographer Tatsuo Suzuki was, apparently, dropped as an ambassador for Fujifilm for having a too “in your face” style.

Clearly I’m no Winogrand, but this shot captured at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in London, UK, for the Covid Street project seems to say just as much about his predicament as it would have if I had not quickly asked for the gentleman’s permission (and I was able to walk away feeling happier about the situation, though slightly uncertain about where I’d let the bus get in the frame).

Further Reading (external links)

The lens on your camera magnifies any slight vibrations in your hands, resulting in blurry images. As well as digital stabilization, there are now two mechanical solutions – in-lens optical stabilization with moving lens elements, or on-chip sensor stabilization.

Both methods are technically ‘optical’ (as opposed to digital), and on-chip sensor stabilization is the clear winner in every case except film SLRs. On DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, one new body brings stabilization to all your lenses. Phones have an image sensor for each built-in lens, but on-chip stabilization means the phone can have better lenses.

The camera manufacturers seem to agree, too, Sensor stabilization built into camera bodies has become widespread in the new generation of mirrorless cameras, though traditionally Nikon and Canon added it to their lenses. Even high-end phones haven’t quite taken the plunge yet though. Some of the industry rumour sites (cough Digitimes cough) are excitedly suggesting that future versions of the iPhone will see this technology, and it’s easy to imagine.

A good example is the iPhone 11 Pro, which has optical image stabilization in it’s standard and tele (2x) lenses, but not on it’s wide (0.5x) camera. With on-chip stabilization on every camera then every zoom length would have a stabilized image, and there would be scope to improve the optics for the 1x and 2x lens components since the stabilization would be handled without any moving lens elements. Admittedly that’s no guarantee that Apple would use a stabilized chip on each camera, but surely Apple and their ilk wouldn’t mind the bulk discount on components?

(A quick aside: Much may depend on how Samsung’s heavy marketing push on megapixel numbers goes, since their flagship Galaxy S20 Ultra has been launched with a mix of sensors across its assorted cameras).

How are the systems compared?

Comparing these systems does suppose that the stabilization they provide is of equal standard. Is it? And how is that measured?

The industry body CIPA does have a system used by the big firms (CIPA approved measuring method) which is given in ‘stops,’ a term familiar to most photographers once they’ve ventured past ‘Auto’ mode. It measures the number of stops you can keep the shutter open longer than you otherwise would and expect the same level of sharpness. For example, if you got a sharp image at 1/125 sec, then a stabilization that was rated 1-stop would mean you’d get an equally sharp shot at 1/60th (the shutter open roughly twice as long).

Canon achieves 4 (and in some cases) 5 stops worth of image stabilisation on their lenses with built-in Image Stabilzation. Some Nikon lenses have an equivalent technology called VR (Vibration Reduction). In both cases, some lenses offering this feature came out before the switch to digital was complete, and the tech is equally useful on a film SLR as a digital one.

Sony introduced 5-axis image stabilization on the A7ii, which claims 4-5 stops of stabilization too, so assuming the same technical approach (a sensor which can not only move horizontally and vertically, but also pitch, roll and yaw) the same should be possible on a smaller phone-sized chip.

New Possibilities Sensor Stabilization Opens Up

On-sensor stabilization is not only an exciting prospect for making life easier optically, even in the phone world, but the camera world is also finding some really interesting additional benefits. Given how much more processing power there is in a phone, and the creativity of the app market, this can only be the tip of the iceberg.

Sensor Stabilization can Boost Megapixels

It might sound a bit crazy at first, after all a sensor chip is a physical component and it will always have the same number of photosites (the individual pixels). In fact, though, the sensor stabilization mechanism means that it can be moved a tiny amount while a series of frames are shot. The resulting images can then be composited in software which, for example, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII does. The result is 40-megapixel images from a 16-megapixel sensor and, believe it or not, it actually works, so long as you’re working on a tripod and your subject isn’t moving.

Sensor Stabilization unlocks Smart features

Nocturnal landscape photographers who happen to have the Pentax K-1 or K-3ii will testify to the brilliance of the AstroTracer feature. Traditionally when shooting a nighttime landscape, you’d leave the camera fixed on the tripod and the stars would appear to move and leave trails (or, if you are of a more medieval persuasion, the stars actually move around you). The Pentax camera introduced a system whereby the camera could make use of on-board GPS and compass to automatically orientate the sensor to the stars during a long exposure. Before these cameras came along, the only alternative was mounting your camera on a tracking device.

There is no technical reason why Sony’s 5-axis system couldn’t be used for the same thing, if GPS and compass data were available. In phones all those technologies are already available – you’d just need to ensure no one called you while you were shooting and you’d need a good phone-tripod grip.

Digital Stabilization v On-Chip Stabilization

These are not the same thing, even though we think of chips and digital as being distinctly related. When we call a process ‘digital,’ we mean that the computer is doing the work by processing the data. It’s very likely that your phone does this when shooting video, by cropping in a little on each frame, then comparing them all as they come in, then cropping them slightly differently so there appears to be less camera shake. Some digital methods can also be used to sharpen images by taking multiple frames at a higher shutter speed and combining them, for example.

Digital methods rely on the limits of the sensor in question, though (and any vibration it is exposed to). Optical methods compensate by making sure the photons of light which make up the image arrive in the right place on the image sensor chip, so tend to produce better results (but are more mechanically complicated and more expensive to implement).

Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright HM1 is an extremely impressive imaging chip, but what does “For sharper results, the HM1 supports a gyro-based electronic image stabilization (EIS)” mean?

Camera salespeople are well aware of the advantages of optical technology, which is why they’ll use confusing terms when they’re trying to avoid explaining a technology is digital, just as they do when they don’t want to say “digital zoom” (also a lesser technology). Ask yourself, what does this mean: “48-megapixel telephoto camera allowing 10x Hybrid Optic Zoom and ‘Super Resolution Zoom’ that uses AI for up to 100x zoom”? In truth the only fact is the 48-megapixels. The addition of the word ‘Hybrid’ implies that the 10x is going to be achieved at least in part digitally (using data from other lenses?) and AI is a more open admission of digital involvement.

Related listening

Hear Dan and I talk about phones v cameras in Episode 8.

Remember, you said you’d buy us a coffee for all the listening pleasure? Well, OK, you probably just thought about it for a second and dismissed the idea, but just know we’d really appreciate it… just do it here via PayPal. Or Apple Pay / Android Pay.

Vanity Fair Exhibition

This will be on until the summer, so see if you can get tickets at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Dan’s Shooting & Event Suggestions

Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

Who knew that these pretty trees had their own festival? Well, these guys for sure: https://cherryblossomwatch.com

Geese in Middle Creek, PA

Interestingly the picture for Middle Creek, PA in Google Maps is geese, so it’s possible Dan is on to something!

Salem, NY

The Photography Show, Birmingham

March 14-17 at the NEC, Birmingham. You know, by the airport!

PowerEgg X – A Drone that Can Land on Water

Sometimes it seems gear really can pull off a trick or two (plus I’ve tested pretty aggressively for my YouTube channel…). If you like the water, it’s the only drone to get (but make sure you get the Wizard edition).