New York I Love You, but...

I'm kidding, there is no but, I simply love you. I have to be 100% honest though, in the 90+ degree heat of summer, you don't smell entirely great. Huge piles of hot trash and millions of perspiring humans make for stale and malodorous air but even that can't detract from the sheer intoxicating chaos of your streets and sidewalks. 

Intermittent dips into the merciful relief of more fragrant, in-store air conditioning, the only momentary sanctuary from the oppressive humidity and oxygen-starved heat of the streets.

For a street photographer there can be no better city... there's almost just too much going on, too many staggering scenes and outlandish characters. Unlike the normal street-tog 'hunt' for a shot, the task becomes one of filtering, of trying to find a clean, meaningful shot in amongst the maelstrom of activity on every corner – it's extremely tiring but enormous fun. 

Obviously, there are times when a stereotypical New Yorker, with a somewhat cliched distain for tourists will take offence and tell you 'not ok buddy, not fuckin ok at all' upon which, no amount of apologising will placate, they're annoyed and that's that. In the UK, in the same situation I may engage, explaining my rights and correspondingly theirs but NY is their town, I am the tourist, the visitor, there's no need for conflict, I try to be as respectful as I can.

None of this can take the shine off the experience and you find yourself walking for many miles more than planned, my iPhone health app tells me I've averaged 7.6 miles per day, peaking at 12 miles on one particularly fruitful and inspiring day. This is way further than I would ever entertain walking while shooting the uk streets.

All these miles, all this material translates into some heavy data, even using my humble cropped-sensor and compact Ricoh GR, I'm averaging 5Gb of images per day. (granted, only about 2mb will be any good but still)

Each evening I pull the images from the SD card to the hard-drive of my laptop, then to an external drive and lastly, push them up to my Amazon cloud drive. I know this is probably overkill but storage is so inexpensive nowadays and US hotel internet connections are so fast, why risk losing anything? 4 locations should cover it! SD, SSD, HD and cloud. I'm not really of that calibre yet but if you think, just one photo can be life changing, can be iconic, can have a significance, an importance beyond your own lifetime and career, are you prepared to potentially lose that if your backpack gets stolen?

This brings up the issue of shooting Raw. My view on this is simple, ALWAYS shoot Raw, anything else seems crazy. I know Eric Kim wrote an article recently suggesting we unburden ourselves of massive file sizes and the associated storage and backup problems they create but I wholeheartedly disagree. It's about the only thing I do disagree with him on though, for years now I've found his insightful and freely given advice, hugely helpful. He seems to be a cool and generous guy.

I guess some of the reasoning for Eric's suggestion of shooting only jpgs is location specific. Maybe if you were backpacking in the Himalayas, with limited access to both electricity and Internet, maybe maximising SD capacity is the main goal. Weight too may be critical, maybe you're traveling with no laptop, just a tablet with limited capacity and most likely no Raw facility anyway. 

For New York though, with the super-bright summer sun creating such hard contrast from light to dark, the extended dynamic range afforded by Raw enables my shots to be subtly enhanced (rescued!?) a stop either way to neutralise the contrasty conditions. Although I'm doing my utmost to expose correctly, inevitably I'm finding myself pulling down the highlights and pushing up the shadows, just to open them up a little and expose a bit more detail. 

Another pearl of wisdom from Eric is allowing time for the shots you take to marinate – and I completely agree. My terrible impatience has me editing the days images each evening but this is a bad time to do it, probably the worst. The problem is, you still have a relationship with the experience of taking the shots. If you edit a street image on the same day you took it, you're not subjective about the true quality of the shot, you can still hear the Jazz drifting from a basement bar, the smell of the street food and feeling of the sun on your back. All these things heavily influence how you feel about each shot – just park them, edit at a later date when those emotional feelings have had chance to fade somewhat, you'll be much more likely to select images for their true merit, trust me, you'll just make better editing choices.