On being open

Today I went shooting on Hollywood Boulevard. As I rode home I was not at all sure that I had written anything worthwhile to my memory card. I doubted. Perhaps I’m not a cut out to be a street photographer. Perhaps I should stick to genres more easily controlled.

After I got home, ate, and showered, and started working through the day’s shots I was able to get a little perspective on what transpired.

My problems stemmed not from technique or composition (though, certainly not all perfect), but rather I had problems seeing and isolating. But by the end of the day, I had decided to concentrate on people in cars and to my surprise, I found many more interesting images after this decision. But Jay (Maisel) whisper’s in my ear “Be Open”. How do I reconcile the words of the master against the difficultly of finding the needle in a haystack of “openness”?

For the last hour or so, I was less open. I was specifically concentrating on people in cars. I had constrained my world but the constraint felt good. The constraint gave me some boundaries within which to explore.With the boundaries in place, I began to relax and and find comfort and find a creativity within the boundaries and starting seeing more and more interesting opportunities.

Being open creates a big world in which to wander and it was too big of a world for me this afternoon.

Study of a Trumpeter

Study of a Trumpeter

Last night a group from the Ventura County Camera Club took an excursion into Los Angeles first to visit the Annenberg Space for Photography and then to hit Hollywood Blvd after dark.

When I go out on the street, I never know what I’ll get. I am still very much in training and continually thinking about what is interesting and what is important. As well designed as they are, I don’t much like taking images of things that are standing still such window displays. I consider these “other people’s art” or OPA. I don’t much like taking pictures of the homeless or people sleeping. This is too depressing. I do like taking images of people doing things in a way to expresses their personalities.

About halfway through our walk along Hollywood Blvd, I spotted (well heard) this trumpeter (well flugelhorn player) from across the street. Look at that, he was sitting in front of a brightly colored window proudly displaying in red and green “TATTOO”

Study of a Trumpeter

I took out the bazooka (70-200) and worked this angle and waiting for the moments in between the cars and the spectators. The man noticed me and my bright white horn (why Canon, oh why make them white!) and stopped playing and started fiddling with his valves. Darn! Had I missed the opportunity?

My husband said, “he’ll be there when we come back the other way”. Knowing how many times I’ve seen situations vanish I said “No, one thing I’ve learned is that you never assume you can come back for a photograph”. So we stared across the street.

Once across the street, the man was still fiddling, but as my friend and I each added a few dollars into his hat, he started to sing and then to play again.

Study of a Trumpeter

A friend walked by, a conversation ensued, laughs and smiles were shared.

Study of a Trumpeter

One image could not do him justice. Look at how dapper he was dressed. His mouth indicates years of playing. And he had set himself up for the night on a brightly colored stage. Yes, a study was needed.

December 2010 Wallpaper – Clown Feet

1920 x 1220 Wallpaper with December 2010 calendar
Downloadable 1920 x 1220 Desktop Wallpaper with December 2010 calendar

This is the first of my monthly Calendar offerings. Each month I will post a 1920 x 1220 image which you can download and use for your computer wallpaper. If you have any requests, just let me know by leaving a comment on any blog post. To get the full-sized calendar wallpaper, simply click on the image and then right-click and select “Save Image As…”.

This clown was working Hollywood Blvd in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

A Clown Story #1

A Clown Story #4

Hollywood Blvd Cityscape

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd Cityscape

I missed entering the June cityscape theme on the Martin Bailey Photography Forum, but I hadn’t forgotten about it.

We have had a very foggy late June and early July and I’ve had just a couple of changes to get different parts of the LA skyline in these conditions. Once from the Getty Center which overlooks the West LA Wilshire corridor and another from the damn at the Hollywood Reservoir which overlooks Hollywood Blvd.

Both times I find that these images are both hard to capture and harder to process. The fog here is very uniform. Medium fog on the ground and big uniform overcast sky. Officially this is the marine layer and is caused by hot dry inland air, coming from the deserts to the east, hitting the cooler moist air coming off the Pacific. We affectionately call it the June gloom. We get several days of morning fog, gradually burning off earlier and earlier in the day. Then one beautiful sunny warm/hot day. The earth heats up on this one beautiful day to cause the whole cycle to continue again until the earth cools down for that next sunny day. Sometime in July the temps balance out and the hot dry summer weather begins in earnest.

But I digress. Why are these images so difficult to take and process? First, I have this big open featureless gray sky. My approach is to use the force Luke and make the image about all that negative space. I suppose there are other solutions for long panos. The second problem is noise. Although I’m shooting a low ISO, because there is so little dynamic range in the actual scene once I bring up the contrast the noise begins to show. The third problem is banding. As I begin to bring out any detail I find the sky can easily begin to show banding effects. In post, I am as careful as possible and as subtle as possible. I also used this Photoshop trick and I think it helped.

I think that there is some <i>in camera</i> thinking that I need to do too. I think I need to expose to the right more. Theoretically, this should produce a less noisy image and give me room to open up.

I’m pretty happy with this one. The taller bunch of buildings on the left, by the way, is the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. If you zoom in you can see the signs for Capitol Records, the new “W” Hotel, The Broadway, the The Knickerbocker.