01.07.18: Waiting for a ride

Passengers wait for the subway at the Times Square station in New York City.


Technical information

Nov. 18, 2004,
5:09 p.m.

40°45’17” N,
73°59'12" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2



1/20th second


Street photography is a specialized category of photography where the photographer captures an interesting image based on chance encounters, random incidents or, at times, decisive moments representing day-to-day activities.

But, as this photo demonstrates, images that are classified as street photography don’t necessarily have to be taken on a street or even show a street.

The best street photographs show the relationship — or the lack of relationship — between people in the photograph or people and their environment. This makes the viewer build their own story for the photograph: What was that person thinking? Where was that person going? Why isn’t he paying attention?

This 2004 photograph, taken in the Times Square subway station below the streets of New York City, illustrates chance encounters that occur during a routine day-to-day activity for New Yorkers — waiting for a subway train.

I’ve always liked this photo. There’s a sense of motion, with the subway train slowing to a stop and the man in the left foreground moving toward the tracks. The lady with the pink bags and the man in the black jacket are motionless as they watch the moving train, waiting to board. All are focused on themselves. None seem to be aware of anything — or anyone — in their vicinity.

The photo just feels so New York.

Capturing interesting street scenes is a skill, no different than the ability to capture quality sports action shots, landscapes or wildlife photos. 

And it’s something I don’t do very often.

First, I don’t spend much time “on the street,” except during travel. And second, I don’t take photos of people very often. It’s not that I don’t like people. Heck, most people are OK. But photographing people opens up the whole privacy issue and the potential for litigation if a photo is sold, displayed or published. 

While laws in the U.S. prohibit using a person’s likeness, without consent, for advertising or other trade-related purposes, courts have repeatedly ruled that using a person’s image without consent for artistic expression or creative purposes is legal, especially when the photograph is taken in a public place.

But that won’t stop someone from suing.

Also, there’s that whole “why are you taking my photo?” look that people give when they see a camera pointed at them that makes me feel somewhat creepy when doing street photography.

I do make exceptions and this photo is the result of one of those exceptions. But I still took steps to remain as inconspicuous as possible. I prefocused the camera, then dropped it to waist level and held it against my body to help stabilize the camera for what would be a slow shutter speed. I knew that people would ignore me if the camera wasn’t in front of my face. Then I fired off a series of shots as the train slowed. You can see my reflection in the train door window. I’m in a light-colored baseball cap.

I shot this photo in 2004 shortly after buying my first digital camera, a Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2. It was a relatively inexpensive camera that was marketed as a “pro-sumer” model — easy to use with a built-in lens and perfect for a general consumer or beginner photographer, but including a number of features found on more expensive professional models that would interest a more experienced photographer. I bought the camera after deciding to resume my photography hobby after a couple of decades break. I used the DiMAGE for a few months before determining that I needed a higher-quality camera that could use a variety of lenses.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.