Get close or get lost
First I am not here to criticise other street photography techniques, rather, I am just talking about the approach I use when I am on the street. There are many methods and styles in capturing that magic street photos and it's ever so confusing in determining which method or style to suit one photographer's taste and more importantly technical capabilities.
To me, as a professional wedding photographer, I am always in the centre of actions (not attention, that's something that I do not want so that I can be unobtrusive). I am familiar with my wide angle lens and capturing the moments of the big day. The emotions, the laughters, the tears and all. The reason that I don't use long tele lens is because I will isolate the subjects and the environment too much. For my photos to work, I need to involve the surroundings. This has always been my way of recording. Of course subject isolation is indeed important but it doesn't always work.
Using a wide angle lens like a 24mm or 35mm allows me to get to the subject closer than usual. Even when I shoot wide open, the reader can still visualise and interpret the scene as a whole to know and understand what's happening. That's important.
When I first started photographing weddings, I often used my 70-200 and shot everything at 2.8. The results were, a whole bunch of photos with shallow depth of field and only saw the brides and the grooms. However, as I become more accomplished and developed, I discovered the best way to record the moments is to involve everything that's happening around the main couple on the day and not excluding it.
Whether it is a wedding or on the street, getting close not only makes me 'feel' the actions within by listening and witnessing, but it enables me to freeze these actions within touching distances and translate them into memorable moments.
I always think that if you isolate your subjects too much from the surrounding, the image becomes lost. The viewers will not be able to relate the subject with the event or more precisely, the time of happening. Unless I am doing a formal portrait for a person or a group, isolation is not always in my agenda. Even for street or environmental portraits, I would love to involve the passersby and the surrounding as fore and background.
Finally, I appreciate other types of photography, even within the sub-genre of weddings and streets, people who play with lights and shadows, using abstract elements to create substance and textures to the image, these are all great and creative image makers. Yet, it doesn't come natural to me. I am more of a people person and consider myself to be a story teller. I do things spontaneously in split seconds. I rarely wait for something to happens, though I may anticipate something that is about to happen, but I never wait for too long. Some great mometous images were planned, through observations and waited patiently. I would just be ready all the time and capture whatever happens around me, in real time. I guess, this is also from my weddings as I can't plan (too much) nor reherse for something that may happen randomly on the day. The ultimate words though, get close if you want to get a great story and free the time, or you will simply lose the plot, the image will be withouth direction and your viewers will get lost in your image.