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How You Shot It: Tips on Street Photography in Kenya

By Guest Contributor on June 5th 2014

How You Shot It is a series where you show us how you shot an image. Many who use our presets love to share their special processing recipes. You can join the SLR Lounge Textures and Presets group on Facebook and share your favorite images and recipes as well! For our wedding and portrait photographers, please join the SLR Lounge Wedding and Portrait Photographers group.

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Paolo Altomare, an economics student based in Italy. Read his other article on photographing animals in a Kenyan jungle here.]

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The series is all about street photography in one of the most ancient cities of Kenya, Lamu (which gives the name to the homonymous archipelagos belonging to the Somalia until one century ago). Lamu is an Islamic town, and has a particular sewer system (open air, street level canals) to which the population has to adapt. Also being over 1,000 years old, the colors and climate of the city make out an amazing experience for shooting there and portraying the lifestyle of the population. I really enjoyed shooting the tight streets were really rich with people.

A very interesting consideration of shooting in Lamu that I never noticed before was the diffidence of the locals toward the camera. In fact, most of them, being Muslims, were against being photographed because of a tradition according to which it is possible to capture the soul of a person with a photo. The children were the ones most scared and it was not unusual trying to photograph them and make them run away scared.

I tried to keep a low profile and blend in with the locals by wearing a plain shirt and brown pants. Also I tried to observe and shoot only when I felt confident. It helped that I did not wear a camera strap (the Canon one is black and red –  it’s an attention getter). 

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7 8 My main advices for shooting in a foreign country like this are:

  1. Use a local guide, it might seem expensive at first, but in the end you will discover how much you can save and how many places you’ll gain access to with someone who knows the area and the culture
  2. Use a filter or a serious weatherproof camera/lens combo because dust and water in places like this one is a really dangerous factor for your camera.
  3. Pay attention to the local habits, for instance, many people may not want a photo taken and you will have to delete it if you take it
  4. Leave tips to locals who help you, they will reveal many aspects of the Island’s life a tourist would never know
  5. Use a fixed, fast, wide lens. I used a zoom because I had to travel light, but in the end, I would have loved using a fast 35mm prime.

I managed to take some good Milky Way shots too. The sky was pitch dark and the visibility was great. For these shot I used my EOS 6D + Samyang 14mm on a tripod.

The settings were 25s – 2000ISO – 2.8f – 14mm

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I used a small torch to light paint the objects you see (like the lighthouse above).

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More images of the series can be found on my 500px page. Please follow me for more updates. This series will be showcased in Milan in July. For those interested feel free contact me on my Facebook profile.

About the “How to Shoot It” Series

This educational series highlights amazing images from our writers as well as our community. The goal is to not only feature inspirational work but to provide valuable education for our photography community. If you would like to submit your work, please click here for more info on writing for SLR Lounge.

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2 Comments

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Basit Zargar

    Nice article

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