A Morning at Venice Beach

Plastic Friends

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.

Red Lattice

LA - SF

Piano Tuner #2

Through the Looking Glass

Streisand and Me

2014 Retrospective – Part III – Color in the Streets

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.

Flag Day

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.

Joe's Pizza

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.

Clowns

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.

Lip Touch Up

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.

Telling Stories

The Tailor

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.

Melrose Reflection

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.

2014 Retrospective – Part 1 – 35mm Film Photography

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:

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.

Dairy Images

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

LA Misc

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

Santa Monica Pier

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

Hollywood Reflections

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.

Clothes Shopping – Melrose

Walking along Melrose Boulevard this weekend, I happened on these shoppers.

Shopping Melrose

Shopping Melrose Mosaic

The first image was a result of a few minutes of exploring different angles. Just after this image she looked up and the opportunity was over. In the second image the sign post just to the left of the front woman’s head, along with the angled close rack pole, makes this composition look like three different images.

Admiring the Art

Enjoying the Art

My friend Jerry and I were shooting around Beverly Hills and wandered into this art gallery. Even though we were dressed by bums (i.e. street photographers) they were very polite to us and even gave us some bottles of water. While I was admiring the art of Dali, Picasso, and Miro, Jerry struck up a conversation with one of the Gallery art reps. Turned out he needed a head shot and he had two photographers at his ready. After the posed portraits were done, I turned around and noticed he had used the bronze statue to hang his coat.

Olympus OMD E-M1, Oly 17mm f/1.8 (35mm equiv)

Havana First Impressions – Paseo del Prado

Playing on the Prado

I thought it would be easy to sit down and write a post about my first impressions of Cuba and Havana, but I was wrong. There is too much to say and I know too little.

Man in Thought

After a morning of travel and lunch stop at a government restaurant, we finally settled into the Hotel Parque Central around 4pm. By 5pm I was taking my first, tentative, walk in Havana, down the Paseo del Prado.

After Work

The Prado is a large pedestrian walkway that leads from Havana Central to the harbor and the Malecón, the sea wall. Immediately I felt the presence of the people, birds, and traffic which roared down the busy Paseo de Marti on either side.

Family Afternoon on the Prado

The Prado is a gathering place for friends, family, children playing, street vendors, and just a place to sit and rest at the end of the day. Every few feet is an alcove with stone benches built into the wall separating the Prado from the busy 2-lane street on either side of the walkway. Immediately I was attracted to the small groups that would gather in each of the alcoves. Kids playing, people resting, families, and friends engaged in conversation. I could have spent the week just walking up and down the Prado capturing its little scenes.

Mercado La Primera De Prado

Some kids follow you along, asking “monea, monea?”. Unfortunately this is too common with young children and old women. But mostly people sit and talk and go about their business and are open to the American, Canadian, and European tourists snapping their pictures.

An Open Trunk

The ubiquitous 50’s American car, in all states of repair and disrepair. A car by the side of the road with either the hood or trunk open is a common site.

Red car in motion

Street Scene

After a short walk, I reached the Malecón. Like most landmarks, there are lots of great travel images of the Malecón taken at the right time of day, in the right weather, with just the light, the right car coming down the road, and the appropriate amount of waves splashing over the wall or children playing. But my first impressions are on a mostly cloudless day as the sun sets. Men and boys playing with their dogs as a couple of young photographers look on.

The Malecón