It’s been a few weeks since “the workshop” in “the building” came to a close. And having shown only images from New York up to this point, I’m finally ready to put up several images taken after the workshop. Did Jay’s messages sink in? Was I able to juice up my visual curiosity after a week of work? I certainly had my fears heading out to Venice Beach that Saturday afternoon with fellow “graduate” Jerry. But, to be sure, I had a great time and returned with a few keepers.
Barricaded by suitcases and posture – Angry in Pink by I Nancy, on Flickr
Yesterday I went out to see what treasures awaited for me and my camera at Los Angeles Union Station – a mighty art-deco icon and still in use as the primary train station in Los Angeles. In comparison to the grandiose caverns of the stations I’ve visited to in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, Union Station is small but full of both character and characters. This day I found my best subjects in the main waiting room, upstairs at the train tracks, and at a local eatery – Philippe’s.
The main waiting room is large and rectangular with a main walkway down the middle and large frosted glass windows on both sides, architecturally a mixture of Spanish Mission and Art-Deco Modern. The seats are square wood and leather, ample and comfortable, so different from modern airport waiting rooms. There are always plenty of travelers that seem to have hours to wait, which I’ve not quite figured this out as this is the western most terminus for the United States. They must be using Union Station as a hub to go east after arriving from somewhere from the north or south.
From a technical perspective, the lighting in the station is dim, but interesting. The two sides of glass provide good directional lighting from either side and for normal use there is hardly need for additional lighting (though I’ve never been there at night). For my day of photography cranked my ISO to 1600 at f/4 or larger and work from there. I was looking specifically for portraits so mostly donned my 70-200 f/4 on a full-frame Canon 5dMkII. Stealth photography, you might quip. But I’m sure I would not have been able to capture these expressions with a shorter lens, and expressions was my objective.
I looking for interesting faces with interesting clothing, to tell a story, today I present “Angry in Pink”.
Scooter by I Nancy, on Flickr
This is an example of working the compositions at the Skatepark in Venice. Here are a series all taken from the same base composition. I set my composition looking for a clean background. Then waited for the action to come.
Somewhere in 2011, I became acutely aware of my commitment to telling stories with my photography. My stories are more often about place and time and less about people and events. I observe the action around me – the sights, the sounds, the smells. From this consciousness I form my interpretation. I let it sink in and marinate a little before brining the camera up to my eye and layering on all the compositional and technical stuff that merely provide the tools for my expression.
Sometimes, rarely, a single image will suffice. Often, mostly, a set of images combines to develop a deeper narrative. Frequently, usually, one image rises to become a keystone note.
Perhaps a better photographer could capture their impressions in just one image. Are there images in my picture stories that are but filler? But brevity is not my measure for good tale. A good story needs a beginning, middle, and an end. It needs tension but also rest and resolution.
Here I present Fish Out of Water, A Requiem for Fish. The story told to me by the Salton Sea.
Air by I Nancy, on Flickr
During my workshop with Sam Abell, he used this phrase often: “Take the best available picture”. I think there were two messages here. His first message was not to miss the shot. Even with all your concentration and preparation at 110%, you can only control so much. If you get 90% of the image working, “take the best available picture”. Perhaps a better picture will emerge in a few minutes, but perhaps not.
His deeper message was not to be discouraged. This street-documentary work is hard. I think Sam’s standards are super-human high and it is exactly these standards that brought him his success and brilliance as a photographer. Somewhere along the way, however, he realized that if a photographer allow themselves be overwhelmed by these standards, they may never produce another photograph, ever. So he reminds his students, and perhaps himself, “take the best available picture”.
This picture is not perfect. I wish there was separation between the bottom of the skateboard and the people below. This could have been achieved if the people were not there. I wish the two people on the left looking on at the trick didn’t have palm trees behind them and were wearing more colorful clothing. I wish there were some more amazing light or color to the sky. But these things were not there. This was the best available picture and I’m glad to have taken it and learned from it.