I’ve always had a difficult time photographing in Downtown LA. I don’t know whether I felt intimidated or just couldn’t find my footing with its big wide streets. This past weekend I spent much of three days photographing downtown with my, now common, two cameras / two prime lenses style. For the wider streets of LA, instead of primarily using the 35 mm, I found my stride with the 50mm. (Of course these are taken with my Olympus OM-Ds, so the focal lengths are 17mm and 25mm respectively)
January 3rd, Venice Beach morning, enjoying the last days of my winter days off. I walk through joggers, dinners, vendors, and tourists with pithy mantras running through my mind, placed carefully, I hope, by those I’ve chose to study with: “Compose and wait”, “Not so literal”, “Be open”, “You are responsible for every millimeter of the frame”, “All I’m watching in the bottom layer of the curtain”.
I find myself drawn to reflections and scenes perceived through optical filters. I wait for the right gesture and for the right moment. I look at the relationship between objects. I look for unusual compositions and perspectives. In most attempts I fail.
Sometimes you come home with only one image, but that is all it takes.
It was cold and breezy outside, so Jerry Weber and I decided to shoot Christmas Day the Los Angeles Union Station instead of downtown Broadway. Up on the train platform, there were trains on two adjacent platforms, effectively creating a tunnel except for a small slit near the roof and between the train cars. I took a bunch of shots while the passengers were loading, but the payoff was near then end with the last few stragglers.
The sun, though low, was quite intense and in looking at my early shots, I had the wits about me to push down the EV 2-stops. While I was shooting, I was just concentrating on getting the face in the shaft of light, keeping my framing straight, and fixing the relationship between the light in the upper right and the corner of the frame. I didn’t recognize the reflection or little red lights on the side of the train until I looked at the back of my camera.
Last, but not least, the 3rd installment of my retrospective on my photography in 2014. In Part I and Part II I talked about my forays into black and white film photography, but here in Part III is the mainstay of my photographic life – street photography in all of its brilliant color. My camera of choice for this is an Olympus OM-D EM–1 usually with a 35mm prime lens. (Though just recently I did purchase the Olympus 12–40 f/2.8 zoom and it is growing on me.)
You can easily search back through this blog to find plenty of entries, and although I’ve never been known to necessarily follow rules or respect authority, today I’m going to pull out a few that may have you scratching your head, because they represent my journey toward my unique vision.
This first image represents a snapshot aesthetic, which however innocent this label sounds, it pretty difficult to pull off. Taken on Memorial Day weekend in Venice Beach, these two girls were busy taking pictures of each other posed with the American flag.
This image was taken on Hollywood Blvd (you can see the stars on the sidewalk if you look for them). I just happened to see the unexpected juxtaposition of the cop waiting for the bus and Alfred Hitchcock. I framed up some context and waited for the right set of supporting cast. A minute later, the bus had pulled up and the scene was gone.
I was working on this image and talking with the carnival man. It was a fairly bright and sunny day and he kept ducking his head in under the umbrella. My goal here is to turn what’s important on it head – showing you the faces of the metal clowns and obscuring the real person’s face. It helps that he is wearing the same colors as the clowns only in reverse. The image was taken at the Ventura County Fair.
While I’m out shooting, the little voice in my head is always whispering “Don’t be so literal”. In this image from the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade, I put on a 90mm lens to work on these close up portraits.
I have three favorite images from my trip to Portugal, and these are two of them. In these two images I was able to arrange the layers of the image in an unexpected way. The masters of this style are Alex Webb and David Alan Harvey. These images are but a small step forward in developing my overall command of highly complex layered street images. Both were taken in Lisbon – one in the Alto Bario neighborhood, then other in the Alfama region. If you are considering a trip to Portugal and looking for street photography, Lisbon is a wonderful venue.
I will end with an abstract street reflection from Melrose Avenue. Although Melrose runs east-west, this winter morning the sun was hitting full force onto the north side of the street which created strong reflections on the store fronts across the street. I had a lot of fun working the reflections this day.
I’ve been a bit under the weather, so I won’t be finding any Red-White-and-Blue this evening. Instead I leave you with a few from the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade – June 21, 2014.
Although many find it easier to take street portraits than complex layered images, I find it just the opposite. So I worked on picking people out of the crowds and finding the portraits that captured the feeling of the day ranging from last minute makup preparations, float decoration, or looking for a little cool on the sidelines.