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.
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
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.
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.
The amount of light, the quality of light, the color of light.
Changing the white balance on this image would ruin its effect.
Yesterday I went to the annual Santa Barbara Solstice Parade. I had a great time, but boy do I need a lot more practice shooting events.
Here were some of my problems:
- Focus, focus, focus – and I don’t mean clearing my mind. So many soft images or images that I never took because I knew I could not keep up with the focus. I’m shooting with a 5dMkII which does not have the most sophisticated focus system in the world, but mostly it is me. First of all, I was shooting with a long lens much of the day which wasn’t helping to with depth of field. I should have probably bumped up the ISO and stopped down a little more. Second, although I tried to think about this while shooting, I did a lot of shooting with people coming at me. That is HARD. I know I should have been looking for situations with people moving across my field of view. Next time.
- Finding a clear path – there is a lot going on at an event and it was not easy for me to find clear backgrounds. I think I need to look harder for this. I tried to compensate with shallower depth of field (see #1). What I think I needed to do, was find my spot in the parade based on the background, not on convenience.
- Finding interesting AND photogenic subjects – I hate to say this, but some (many) of the people I photographed were just plain, well, plain. Even with their costume they were, well, plain. Some were nervous and that was really apparent on the portrait too.
I got some “nice” shots and one or two that I like a lot and a couple that I like by my husband doesn’t.
It was a fun day and I’ll do it again because I need a lot more practice.
The style was there, I just needed the gesture.