Manual focus series IV : Collision path

Skill : advanced
In focus rate : 50%
Picture style : subjects walking towards you

As you walk in a street, many of your potential subjects will be headed in your direction and pass by very close. That is especially true in towns with narrow sidewalks or tiny streets like one often encounters in Europe. With that method, you will set the focus on your lens at a given distance depending on how close you anticipate/want to get to your subject. Almost on a collision path, reason for the new found name for this technique. In my case, I usually set my 35mm lens at 2 meters and the 60mm at 3 meters. When I spot a potential subject coming towards me, I then raise the camera to my eyes in advance and aim the rangefinder center patch toward the face of the person. Then I let the subject near (on a collision path … reason for the name of this technique) until the two images are about to coincide in the viewfinder. At that moment, I’ll quickly reframe to the wanted composition and hit the trigger. Now make no mistake, and remember that this series is about focusing lenses at full aperture, this technique is not a very reliable one and one does need to practice a lot to get a good timing. Nevertheless, I find it a bit more effective then trying to estimate the distance to your subjects while both of you are moving. As a side note, one could argue that this technique will get you spotted easily by subjects. It is true in some cases, yet most people don’t really understand what is about to happen as you raise your camera. Therefore if your timing is good, you’ll still get a high rate of candids.

The picture below was taken next to the Mouling Rouge. I saw that girl in the distance coming towards me and also spotted the red color of the Moulin Rouge in the back. As she came close to me, I raised my camera and aimed the rangefinder patch towards her face until the images were about to coincide. At that point I slightly reframed to the right and hit the trigger. The focus ended up not 100% accurate nevertheless I believe it did not impact too negatively on the overall feel of the picture. Also notice the out of focus background, result of the lens opened at F1.2.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F1.2, 1/4000, ISO640

5 Responses to “Manual focus series IV : Collision path”

  1. cam dit :

    are you using ND filters to shoot wide open during the day?

    i never thought to try this but now, as i only have 1/4000, i’m starting to play around with it… much more stunning on the M9, though!

  2. cam dit :

    never mind… i looked back and see that you are (hough maybe not in the image above).

    still, a question on using them: do you find they affect the colour (especially on the M8, since you’d not be using the IR)?

  3. admin dit :

    HI Cam, I haven’t notice any change of colors because of the ND filter. Nevertheless, on the M8 you would still need a UV/IR. The stack up of UV/IR+ ND filter would probably cause some weird reflections in some circumstances as well as vignetting on some lenses.

  4. Siu Hay dit :

    This is brilliant! Thank you for sharing these techniques. Oh, and that’s a lovely photo. Even the expression on the lady was natural.