Talking about Rules and Revisiting Your Camera by Alexander Hessentswey

Talking about Rules and Revisiting Your Camera

by Alexander Hessentswey

If someone states – “you can’t shoot a street photo without asking the person’s permission”, or “you can’t do a street photo with a tele lens or with SLR”, there is always someone who appears and says “I do”.

 Railroad Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Panasonic 25mm f:1.4 Leica-labeled, 50mm in equivalent)


You should be more or less in harmony with your own moral principles when shooting. The camera can’t shoot itself — at first, you have to “see”. The photography doesn’t have “should I or should I not” in itself. Only when we talk about moral decisions, laws, physics or the camera options – such as speed or the focal length of the lens, or sometimes when we talk about styles. You can’t call it a photo if it was actually painted and not shot. You can’t shoot someone undressing in his private house of course but there are plenty of great shots made with wrong equipment in incorrect ways.

 Sedov the Sailboat, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Panasonic 25mm f:1.4 Leica-labeled, 50mm in equivalent)


No person can disallow you to shoot in colour instead of black and white or to use zoom when all others tend to use fixed lens. On one hand, Just common sense and chances can get you a good shot. On the other, you use what you have to use, and if it helps you, and if it works, it’s your way.

But, talking on genres, you may risk to get out of a particular genre. Don’t listen to those doubtful phrases like “a portrait is when the person knows you photograph him/her” (somehow, in paintings it is not so). But, yes, every genre has it rules. To worry about it or not is your decision.

 Vasilyevsky island, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Kodakchrome E100G through Leica Summicron R II 50mm)


 Vasilyevsky island, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Tair 11A f:2.8 135mm for M42)


There are two exclusions. It is all about style and the rules of composition. You can’t do things that lead to a bad style and get a lot of good styled photos and if you go against the rules of composition you’d better know what you are doing because it can lead to the uncomfortable results, expressing not the same thing that you see in a photograph yourself. But if you follow all the rules it’s a risk to end up with a static and totally common shots without any expression or thought or meaning.

 Sedov the Sailboat, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Yashinon DS f:1.7 50mm for M42)


Sometimes it’s better to be a part of the story. And the other thing is if you can feel the story. Personally I know some people feel uncomfortable when someone with a 35mm lens come close to one’s nose and shoots so I use 135mm or longer. It’s so silly and unprofessional (and you still can insist it’s not street photo), I know, but less rudely and obtrusive also. So you decide.

Floating Lights Party, Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Panasonic 25mm f:1.4 Leica-labeled, 50mm in equivalent)


There is one thing though that you should try. Think if is something your camera needs or wants – not only lens cleaning, but… new lenses with more pleasant bokeh or more detailed? Antique lens? An effect filter, as soft focus, yellow filter, circular polariser? Go through settings and try to do something you didn’t do before, be different. Surreal white balance, film emulation modes with dynamic black and white or vibrant colours or nostalgic look, underexpose for 2 stops, use the lens you’ve used many months ago or the one with unusual characteristics for you – too soft, too long, too wide. Try to experiment and you’ll be surprised how great your old camera can perform.

 Saint Petersburg, Russia (Panasonic G1 with Panasonic 25mm f:1.4 Leica-labeled, 50mm in equivalent)


Sincerely yours,
Alexander Hessentswey from Saint Petersburg, Russia. His TWITTER is HERE.



    • Thank you for reading!

      I wrote one camera review and 3 or 4 more articles so I hope — see you later on this great site.
      Now I write an article about – does the camera tell the truth or not, and how can you show others what you actually see. But it will not be finished soon, I feel.

      Wish you the best!

    • Thank you too!
      I know it’s totally obvious and well-known idea, about rules. I’ve tried to write about those opinions we meet at the forums and reviews – that something is impossible. P.S. I’ve recently shot sports with a camera that’s totally unable to do that.

  1. The railroad museum- i had to look twice to see if this was a model train on model rails or if it was real world. I love this picture it is magical.
    Great words and thoughts.

    all the best

  2. Thanks, great article and beautiful pics. I own a Nikon D800 but I love to shoot with my GX1+Pana/Leica 25mm. Steve, thanks for “Daily inspiration” it is fantastic, I enjoy it a lot.

    • Thank you, Luis! Pana/Leica 25mm is one of the best lenses (details, character, out of focus rendering) I know, and one of the 2 best autofocus lenses I own. I love Panasonic G, GX and GH for colours and style of images and microcontrast and usability as well. Another great camera is Fuji X-E1, I hope to write a review in the near future, already’ve started it.
      Try an old manual optics with your Panasonic, it will give you a different rather pleasant results (depending on the specific lens).

    • I love Saint Petersbourg. And Sevastopol and Kiev and Paris, as well. But Petersbourg is only one place to live, for me.

    • I love my city, it’s the best. You can write me and I’ll give some advices what places worth seeing.

    • I’ve read “Thank you for starting” (Alexander smiles). Of course you understand it’s a filtered ones, I don’t get interesting images often.

  3. I completely agree with you about being in harmony with your own moral principles, about breaking “rules” with experimentation and breaking out of boundaries, and not placing one’s self in a box. And what I love most with each of these photos is how they contrast with one another — from the antiquated feel of the trains to the vivid rigging of Sedov the Sailboat, and even the railing/gate at Vasilyevsky island. Each photo is strikingly unique, and yet from my own perspective, they each have a similar quality to them. It’s as if the viewer is privy to something unique and special; like you’re looking through a keyhole at a slice of life, happening in a specific moment in time. You’ve succeeded at not only being a part of the story, but in bringing me, the viewer, into the story as well. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’ve stated, all the boundaries of impossible (or possibilities) are inside you, almost all, not in the equipment. Except for, yes, moral decisions and law.
      For the Sedov (some sailboats visit our city for day to three and invite us aboard), I can’t work with light rays as some much greater photographers do, for example, Sofia Romualdo. This is one of the very little amount of shots I’ve could do with rays. I wish to learn this art but have no idea how, by now.
      I’ve mentioned being part of the story for this effect of street photo (35mm lens) that I’m completely unable to achieve – that is my nature. So my nature interferes with my ability to take street photos.
      I write fairytales. And my dream is to be able to photograph tales-styled photos every time I’d like. Thank you for your kind words, Cary! Wish you to stay in a fairytales.

  4. Great shots and philosophy. I appreciate the straightforward dealing with a touchy subject on get all of us overly opinionated photographers. A breath of fresh air with fine examples of you attitude at work.

    • Thank you! Indeed, I see the cases (falling out of street photo genre, for example) when opinions look correct. But not in “you can’t” way.
      Philosophy can be important for shooting. But it’s much cheaper to be a philosopher than a good photographer.

    • Thank you, Daniel! One talented photographer said my post processing isn’t up to current standards. (Not about those photos, though.) I beleive it could be done better.

  5. Loving the serene atmosphere surrounding the sailboat! I can almost feel a calm sea breeze brushing against my chin as I watch those lovely colors.

    • The case is it’s Saint Petersburg and we have a calm river breeze rather than sea breeze. But this boat certainly sees many seas and oceans.
      Yashinon insisted it’s really great lens. I’ve got it because Yashicas show smooth and classic bokeh rendering as an active part of an image in general. If a human appears in background he looks not like a weird construction of wires and noodles but actualy as a human.

    • Thank you! Me too. But there were equal number of photographers and other people on this party and some of them took much-much greater photos than me. To be serious, I’ve got 1-2 keepers.

    • Many thanks, Sacha! I think a large part of effect was because of good subjects and lovely lenses and camera.

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