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)
Recently I have noticed that there are three things that attract me to make a picture more than anything else. Here are examples from yesterday’s walk around downtown LA.
1) A mirror – when I saw this I actually commented to the people with me “I’m a sucker for a mirror, what can I do with this?”.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
2) An opportunity to divide the image into halves or thirds. This also a good example of how to use street art for your art.
Person, Panda, Indians
3) Shooting through a fence or window or something with holes and then lining up something inside.
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 spent much of the first half of 2014 shooting black and white film, 35mm street stuff and some medium and large format landscapes and other scenes. Around the middle of the year, I was nervous that I’d not have a 2014 portfolio to show because I was doing so much experimentation with film. Because of this, during the second half to the year I started to shoot more color digital again. In September I was able to focus on my color work with nearly 2 weeks in Portugal with a short stay in Barcelona. For this trip I concentrated on my color digital work.
I’m going to lay this retrospective out in 3 parts:
- Part I – On the streets in B&W 35mm film
- Part II – Not my usual street stuff – Other formats in B&W film
- Part III – Color – This is what digital cameras are made for
Here is Part 1, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 later next week.
Part 1 – On the streets in 35mm Film
The year started on film shooting locally at the usual haunts – Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Downtown LA. My favorites in 35mm B&W are a mixture of things I went out looking to shoot and stuff I just found when I had a camera with me. A bit of this was for a project to depict LA in B&W for a group call the Film Shooters Collective.
3 Legs – Brent’s Deli in Westlake Village.
I wanted to experiment with pushing TriX from 400 ISO to 1600 and 3200, so I bought a bunch of rebranded Tri-X from Freestyle (their Arista Premium 400 24 exposure rolls for $2.69) to experiment with. The camera of choice was my 1962 vintage Leica M2 and a 2014 (not vintage) Zeiss 50mm lens. No filter for this one.
Stop for Clouds – at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente, West Los Angeles
Chick and I were driving to my friend Jerry Weber’s house, on our way to spend some time shooting down at Santa Monica pier. I looked up out the window and was struck by the reflections of the clouds – a rare sight in Southern California in 2014. I framed up the shot again with the Leica M2 and 50mm lens.
Even in Winter – Santa Monica Beach
Even in the winter, southern Californians head to Santa Monica beach. This was on the same day as the image of the stop-light but the clouds had gathered more thickly. I like the composition of elements with the line of people on the beach on the left and the life-guard house on the right. If you want to know what Santa Monica beach looks like in the winter – this is it. I worked this scene fairly hard with lots of different compositions. For this subject I waited it out to get the gesture and the wind in her hair.
Hollywood Souvenirs – Hollywood Boulevard
A complex image, to be sure, with a lot to look at. I wasn’t quite sure of this image, it was always one of my favorites but I was never quite sure if it was too complicated for others to appreciate. I like the way you can look all around the image, round and round, and then bam – head right to the center. I also like that it is uniquely Hollywood. I showed this image to Gerd Ludwig at an impromptu portfolio review. It was one of his favorites. Again the Leica M2 and 50mm lens.