Hola! Vuelo!

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Three generations of transportation

I know you are all itching to see a photo or two from Havana or Trinidad. First things first, I need to transfer my images from my laptop, I’ll do that with a LightRoom catalog export and import, and I need to figure out how to present the images and my thoughts.

It was an excellent trip. Los Cubanos son los anfitriones terrifico!

Practice, Practice, Practice – Preparing for Cuba

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Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
A: Practice, Practice, Practice

I will be soon going my first travel photography workshop. I am joining Eddie Soloway and the Sante Fe Photographic Workshops on an 8 day trip to Cuba visiting the cities of Havana, Trinidad, and Cinfuegos.

Sometime in early 2012, I set my sights on photographing in Cuba in 2013. I don’t know exactly why I picked Cuba, but my life is filled with examples that follow the same basic pattern. I get and idea of doing something and just decide to do it. At the time of my decision often have little understanding of what it will take to get there or even what it will be like when I arrive. I just know it is the right thing for me to do and I set out single-mindedly to achieve the objective. The pattern includes both a long-term vision (I want to be a classical oboist) and lots of little short term activities (I need to master the Strauss Oboe Concerto, I need to study with the 1st oboists of the major US symphony orchestras).

So it was with this trip to Cuba. I announced to my friends: “I’m going to Cuba in 2013, who wants to come along?” I did not wait for answers, I just started my planning and preparation.

My preparation for the trip has included finding the right trip, studying Spanish, reading about Cuba and its history, studying other’s photos of Cuba, studying with master photographers to find myself, and practicing my particular brand of street and social documentary photography. The last part included shooting exclusively with the Olympus OM-D E-M5, memorizing as much as I can about where the settings are located (I’m really bad at memorizing details), and doing as much street photography as my schedule allows.

Over the past several months, when I went out shooting, would say to myself: If you were in Cuba today shooting, what would you come home with. And I would evaluate my results and experience by asking myself several questions that run the gamut of exploring my craft, my vision, and my inner strength.

  • Did I capture the mood?
  • Did fear keep me from taking a picture of spending the time required at a venue to get the right shot?
  • Did I keep and open mind and try new things?
  • Was I conscious and intentional with my camera settings?
  • Did I have any issues with efficiently using my camera?

This approach is completely parallel to the lessons I learned when I studied music.

  • Study with the greats – study great photographs, take workshops with the right people, read about their processes
  • Practice your scales – take practice pictures in different conditions isolating different techniques
  • Run dress rehearsals – go out and shoot as if you were on the assignment
  • Know everything about your instrument – study the manual and practice finding those hidden, but needed, menu items
  • Be unconsciously conscious about the state of everything while you are playing – It needs to be second nature that for every shot you know what your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, and white balance are.

Each time I went out I produced more good work and became more comfortable with my approach to photography and the OM-D system.

I will be bringing 2 Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera bodies, 5 fast prime lenses and one zoom (as a backup). I’ll also be bringing my Induro CT114 tripod with Acratech bullhead. I’ve prepared and run my dress rehearsals. I’ve concentrated on prime lenses so that I am super conscious of composition and framing. I’ll be warming up with a couple of days in Miami before the trip and the concert starts on January 29th.

Sweet Surprises – Land of the Giants

Street photography is fickle. You never know when you are going find that next image. Most often, however, when I get something good I recognize it in the field. The image, or series of images, sticks in my mind. I hear Jay Maisel asking, speaking in his soft curious voice,  “did you know you got something good when you took this?”. And usually the answer is Yes.

But sometimes I am surprised.

Sometimes I find my nuggets where I least expect them – in images that I hardly remember taking, in images that registered “nothing special” or “that was a good try”.

This was my mind-narrative behind this image. Attracted by the mirrors and clear design of the display, I was working some silly self portraits. After giving up in my own portrait, a girl walked up next to me and starting taking her pictures. I stepped to the side and took 3 images including the girls shoulder and back of the camera. Nothing stood out in my mind and I quickly moved on. What had happened in the field is that I had left too much in the frame. I wasn’t able to focus on distillation of the images impact in real-time. My surprise in finding this hidden image tells me what I need to work on.

I was there… They felt this…

Lifeguard Wannabees

Santa Monica Lifeguard Tryouts: cleanup after the ocean swim.

I recently attended a lecture by Los Angeles photographer Loren Resnick. During the lecture I took down the some notes of achieving art through the phases of documentation, evocation, and emotional transcendence. As I review my notes, I come to this reconstruction of ideas:

Documentation: capturing what something is

This is the Statue of Liberty.

Evocation: to bring to mind or recollect

This is the best picture of the Statue of Liberty I’ve seen, it reminds me of when I was there.

Emotional Transcendence: To go beyond emotion and recollection, lying beyond the ordinary range of perception.

This image of the Statue or Liberty makes me think about all the immigrants who saw her as they entered the harbor and the excitement and fear they must have been feeling as they started a new chapter in their lives.

In my next note I wrote: “I was there and felt this”.

But this is not correct. I felt this is simply evocation. We need to move beyond I felt this to They felt this. For street photographers, it is about capturing not what the photographer felt, but what the subject felt.

I was there, they felt this

Light and Inspiration at the Santa Barbara Train Station

Looking Into The Sun

I’ve been buying a lot of photo books lately. Not how to or technical, but monographs of street photographers and photojournalists. I’ve been waiting for a copy of Suffering of Light to show up for weeks. My first order was finally canceled when Amazon determined that the book would not ship (and is probably now out of print). However, I was able to get a “new” used copy at a reasonable price and it finally arrived today.

I am a big fan of this style of complex, colorful, but well organized photography. Nothing easy to understand here, instead they are complex poems of life. This is what I am trying to achieve.

As I write this post, I think “how do I dare post my images against Alex Webb”. I think these are good for now, but I still have thousands of images to go.

Riding By

Hanging By The Door

Again with the Fair

Ventura County Fair

Though still hot and dry in Southern California, Labor Day marks the official end of summer. To celebrate I bring you a few images I shot at the Ventura County fair in August.

As I was editing these, I heard the voice of Jay Maisel as he reviewed the 10 images I had brought from home for his workshop in New York. At about the 3rd image with a fair theme he said: “Again with the fair?” (or maybe he said “Again with the circus?”). This is how different it is to live in California. Today I will head to Santa Barbara and take images of the California scene. Shorts and tee-shirts, sand and surf. The fair, the circus, or just the leisure life of Southern California.

Ventura County Fair

Ventura County Fair

Ventura County Fair

Ventura County Fair