Angry in Pink – A Portrait

Angry in Pink
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”.

PLEASE Watch Your Step

PLEASE Watch Your Step

I’ve been making my way through the writings of David duChemin and I also was able to to clear time to catch several hours of David’s recent workshop Vision Driven Photography broadcast on CreateLIVE. In his writings and speaking, David unwaveringly guides you through his process to which he has ascribed the pithy tag-line “gear is good, but vision is better”. His message challenges you to think about what you want to say with the image and use that information to guide how you will frame, capture, and process. Oh, that sounds too easy. His message is really to think about what you feel in a place and use your emotions to determine how to frame, capture, and process. What do you feel? Oh how we resist that question.

So what was I feeling about this place as before I clicked the shutter and how did I incorporate these feelings into my process? David does this list thing. He lists a series of things and ideas as he walks and looks and discovers. David actually writes these down and refers to them over a course of several days of shooting and again during the processing. I used a mental note only.

Here is my list for this place:

  • Danger
  • Vertigo
  • Signal Anxiety (that anxiety that causes you to be cautious when you should be)
  • Incoming tide, Angry seas
  • Humor (is that sign really necessary? Why PLEASE? Why not “Danger, steep steps”?

And here is how I used this list to influence the Frame, Capture, and Process

What did this tell me about how to frame the image?

  • Accentuate the steepness of the stairs with a wide angle, downward looking shot
  • Align the image off kilter to help convey the off-balance feeling of vertigo
  • Get some froth from the ocean and it would be best if I can have the rock showing too.
  • The sign must be in the image and perfectly focused

What did this tell me about how to capture the image?

  • Use a wide angle and get close to the top step to accentuate the depth perception
  • Focus on the sign (I use center point focusing and then recompose) but use a small aperture for full depth of field
  • With the right timing, a long exposure will capture a lot of froth, use my ND Filter to give me the capability for and even longer exposure.
  • Use a tripod (due to long exposure)

What did this tell me about how to process the image?

  • I needed contrast between the froth of the ocean and the rest of the image to make sure that it stood out
  • Needed to make sure the sign stands out appropriately possibly lightening it if needed
  • White balance should be a little cold and angry

To say that all these points were clear in my mind as they happened would be not completely honest, but there was enough consciousness to drag me in the right direction. Do you agree?