Playing Hard To Get – The Lisbon Workshop

Photo taken with Nikon Mirrorless Z7 Camera. Lisbon was my first use of this new way of shooting and so far I love it.

We are midway through our advanced workshop in Lisbon and it’s proving to be a wonderful and challenging shoot. Few things worthwhile come easy and though this photogenic city has blessed us with wonderful, unseasonably warm weather, our participants are fighting the occasional resistance we encounter when it comes to making images on the street. There is no doubt that the secret is out on this new must-see tourist destination. 

With the influx of tourism here, some of the locals are fed up with the sheer numbers of cameras pointed at them and I can understand it. Often our photographic experiences are affected by the camera pointers who came before us. And if the insensitive tourist has no qualms about behaving badly when taking pictures of people, a passionate photographer’s good intentions are often not given the benefit of the doubt. But that’s okay. We just have to work around this. 

And as you will see, our group is doing just that. 

We have met the challenge and you will see a variety of great work. I’ve chosen just a couple of images from each of the participants. It’s an advanced workshop, so we keep a daily diary of our shooting life here, to see if any of our own insights helps us focus our vision on a set of images. 

Some of the street frustrations felt by our workshop participants were beautifully expressed by this passage from photographer Norm Saari: 

Please do not hate my camera. 

It does not want to violate you, judge you, or humiliate you. 

It is not a troublemaker. 

It is my way to say I respect you. My camera will allow me to remember you. 

In less than a split-second, it will make you memorable, remarkable, beautiful and proud. 

It is not judgmental. It is remarkably honest and sincerely friendly. 

It brings out your best.   Norm Saari

Don Dillon provided his assessment of the workshop. 

Observations by Don Dillon

If I am honest, I approached this workshop with a combination of excited anticipation and butterfly inducing dread. This is my third Steve Simon workshop; you’d think it would get easier and less stressful. Nope, doesn’t work that way. The excited anticipation is about traveling to new and sometimes exotic locations, seeing old friends from previous workshops, meeting new ones, getting to know Miguel at this particular workshop – enjoying his knowledge of Portugal and his edgy sense of humor –  and spending time with and learning from Steve Simon, our dear leader and mentor. The fear is knowing I really have to produce images at the level I know is coming. 

In pregame preparation, I spent some time with the photographs I made in Tokyo and Havana as well as the rudimentary attempts of street shooting done in another lifetime. They are like visiting old friends with whom I have shared a powerful, split second human moment.  I modestly tell people who see my “keepers” that, “even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while” or “ when you take a zillion photos, you’re bound to get a decent one occasionally.” 

But truthfully, there is so much more to it. This feels like the semi pro street photographer’s tour. There are years of knowledge and experience mixed with lots of rookie mistakes. For me, what makes this such a powerful experience is I always come away from one of these an incrementally better street photographer with a clearer sense of what and why I am doing this in the first place. 

For me fear is the best motivator. If we all were just showing up as a nice group of folks out for some travel and vacation snapshots, I would be bored to death and would never come back. But, our Dear Leader has a very gentle way of throwing down the gauntlet and letting us know we are expected to triple down on the amount of time out on the streets shooting, become fearless in going in for the kill shot, cull and edit when normal people are sleeping and eating, and actually producing images that will be critiqued by some very talented people. As they say, “this ain’t easy.”

Lisbon has been one of those tough venues that from time to time really dislike, especially when getting the 15th brushoff or outright angry rejection. I’m not a hunter but this feels like a hard bow hunt for elusive game. I finally know what I am as a street shooter. I know what I have to do to “bag” the elusive jewel. I know I can’t leave the little black camera in a drawer between workshops anymore; that just won’t cut it. 

I got more than what I came for. 

Our 2019 Lisbon Passionate Workshop listing is up. Secure your spot here

Student Work:

David Mathre

Gone to See Portugal. Day 6. Lisbon Morning Walkabout. Image taken with a Leica CL camera and 23 mm f/2 lens
Gone to See Portugal. Afternoon Walkabout Day 2. Image taken with a Nikon 1 V3 camera with a 10-30 mm OIS lens.


Don Dillon

Jennifer Dooley

Norm Saari

Sean Sliney

Miguel Helfrich

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More from Steve Simon

1 Comment

  • In any other types of photography there are rules to describe a good photograph but in street photography it seems any photo of people in the street doing their own things is a good photo. It doesn’t have to be framed properly, it can be askew, blurry, doesn’t need colour and no rules of composition need applying… It seems to be a safe place for photographers to be because any shot is considered good. How does one know or recognise or make a difference between a good and a mediocre image in street photography?

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