A Day at the Station – Union Station

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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.

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The View from the BiciTaxi

View from the BiciTaxi

On our first night in Havana, we attended a short talk and photography slide show from our photographic sponsors, Fototeca De Cuba. We traveled by bicitaxi, from our hotel, the Parque Central, to Plaza Vieja. Kip, from the Sante Fe Worshops, helped us negotiate a proper fare of 4 CUC for 2 people.

With night falling, an interesting perspective, and bumpy cobblestone streets, the short ride offered a chance for fun series and something a little bit different.

We saw some really interesting images at Fototeca, many were more political that I would have imagined. Some showing Cuba’s monuments engulfed in waves or juxtaposing people from the country side with American commercial products by holding cereal boxes or cleaning products. That night we saw the images of José Julián Marti showing the sweeping movements of the sugar cane harvest.

In the gallery, there was a series of about 16 images each arranged in one very large panel, like a contact print. Each print contained an image with one naked woman in a small room on a bed with an orange fringed bedspread. The women were in various positions of relaxation, repose, or boredom. The room was the same, yet, different with each woman. The feeling I got when looking at the images was as if each woman was asked to go into the room, undress, and then left there for an hour or so before the image was taken.

In some images, the woman’s belongings were clearly visible on the floor or shelves around the bed; some neat, others disheveled. In one image, in particular, there was an ashtray on the floor filled with the cigaret buts of at least a pack of cigarets. How long would that have taken?

Visually these images had great interest with green walls, orange spread, and the woman of her particular shape and size. The clutter and pose told the viewer something of her story, but just the smallest sliver. The real story versus the imagined sat solely with the viewer.

Here is my series from the streets of Havana that night showing you the colors, the streets, and the view from the BiciTaxi.

Car Lights

A Woman Passes

Dance with the Blue Car

Stopped

Cat in the Road

Tunnel of Lights

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.

Using Light

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Every other month I present a Digital Composition Challenge to the Thousand Oaks Photo Group. This months challenge is Using Light with the objective to have the photographers think about light and how it is contributing to the image. The challenge is to make photographs where light and shadow are a major contributor to the image’s story, mood, emotion, and purpose.

First some basics. We know that all photography is about the capture of light, but some photographs rely on strong and angular lighting to tell the story and convey the mood. Some photographs are about the light itself.

When thinking about using light, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Where is the light falling?
  • Why have you chosen to position the light (or position yourself to the light) at that angle?
  • What elements are lit?
  • What elements are show by shadow?
  • Can you see the light? (not just the reflectance of the light)
  • Are there significant elements created by by shadow?
  • Would changing your position to the light change the story or impact?
  • Would increasing or decreasing the amount of light change the story or impact?

Tips for Using Light

  • When outdoors – shoot during early morning or late afternoon when the low angle of the sun creates strong directional light
  • Experiment with back light and side light
  • Experiment with low-light situations with a small, yet, poignant use of light
  • If using flash – move the flash off the camera

I always showcase images of my own and others. Here is an album of images of mine and some links to other photographers.

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Aspens lit like Jack-o-Lanterns on Halloween

Into the Sun
Into the Sun by I Nancy, on Flickr

It was a quiet morning in the canyon on the road to South Lake outside of Bishop. We had been scouting around North Lake the day before and, as had been reported by others, much of the color was damaged by the storm the week before. We headed down the South Fork road, not too early, and stopped at a pull off with a promising grove and access to the creek. Being in the canyon, we had a couple hours of beautiful soft morning light before the sun would crest over the eastern canyon walls. These first images I’m posting are from the 15 minutes after the sun crested over the wall and lit up the aspens like jack-o-lanterns on Halloween. They were taken between around 10am and 10:15. (If you check the EXIF, I believe my camera clock is off by one hour, as I customarily never set it to daylight time).

Although, some talked disappointingly about the mix of green and yellows, I was delighted with the mix of colors. You will see even more of this mixture in my next post which will show the grove before the sun came up. I have also been fascinated with tree-scapes for some time and mentally I was really searching them.

Nature's Stained Glass
Nature’s Stained Glass by I Nancy, on Flickr

Light, Color, Gesture

Which Way
Which Way by I Nancy, on Flickr

Yesterday’s field trip with the Thousand Oaks Photo Group took us to Los Angeles Union Station and Olvera Street. Union Station is a premier piece of Art Deco architecture and Olvera Street represents one of the original Spanish settlements in LA. There is a lot to photography just concentrating on the architecture, historic, and cultural significance of these two places. My mission yesterday, however, was about the people. Moreover it was about how to photograph the people with the story supported by photographic elements which make the viewer look harder, even when they are not sure why. I didn’t want to just find interesting (or weird people) and have only their oddity tell the story. I wanted to find those visual kick-starters that make the viewer continue to look at the image, to provide a layer of information and interest, that goes above and beyond the content. This is what I am learning adds dimensionality and impact.

As a sort of mixed-up compilation of three photographers writings and teachings, Ibarionex Perello, David DuChemin, and Jay Maisel (yes, Ibarionex and David, I put you in the same sentence as Jay) I’ve walked around Union Station mumbling the mantra “light, color, gesture”. In a recent video I was watching of Jay Maisel with Scott Kelby, I was introduced to how Jay talks about looking for “light, gesture, and color”. Ibarionex is all about “Chasing the Light“. And David is about all about being vision driven – understanding what the scene is saying and then capturing that.

This image, with its controversial composition, was one of the situations where I found my “light, color, and gesture”. In the first layer, we have an interesting story, where is this man with his hat and fancy shirt, people all around, what is he pointing at or asking about. The next layer was the color – harmonious warm hues of yellow incandescence echoed in his hat and shirt. Then we have gesture – dramatic and, although depth of field challenged, indisputable action.

Light, Color, Gesture – I think I’ll keep this mantra around for a while.

It’s still about the light

Boat Night In
Boat Night In by I Nancy, on Flickr

I was listening to Scott Bourne’s Photofocus podcast today and one of the questions went roughly like this: “When heading to a new place, how do you figure out where to shoot?”. And Scott’s answer, in typical Scott pithiness, was to follow the light – “In good light, you can take a picture of a fire hydrant in Barcelona and convince people to go there.”

So here is this old sad fishing boat in Morro Bay. The evening light was falling with just a few rays left to help highlight this ol ‘gal.