Hey, I’m the Featured Member for August 2015 – Los Angeles Center of Photography

Santa Monica, California

This month I am the featured member in the Member Gallery at the Los Angeles Center of Photography website. My gallery displays a 20-image portfolio of my street work from the past three years. As I choose this set of images, I was looking for those of which I was most proud of with a consistent feel. I was not looking for images from a single place or time, so it is all the more interesting to examine some of the characteristics of this set.

Of the 20 images, 10 are from Los Angeles taken on various trips to Downtown, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills. 5 of these are from a 3-day stretch of intensive shooting downtown that I did earlier this year for a book project with John Free.

Flowers and DogDowntown LA with John Free

2 images are from workshop intensives, with Jay Maisel and Sam Abell. During these workshops, you are challenged each day you to make 5 images for the next day’s workshop critique. These two images mark, for me, a breakthrough in thinking.

New York, NYNew York City with Jay Maisel

Whidbey Island, WAWhidbey Island with Sam Abell

The remaining 8 images are from the various travel trips I have started to do in the last few years. The images are from Havana Cuba, Oaxaca Mexico, Lisbon Portugal, and Dublin Ireland, but none of are particularly “travel” images.

Of the 20 images, all but 1, was taken with a micro-four-thirds mirror less camera as I ditched my dSLR sometime in late 2012.

One of the earliest images in the collection, from 2012, was taken in Beverly Hills. I was out for a couple hour photo walk with a good friend and my husband. It was a nothing special day with a nothing special agenda, but my mind had been freshly implanted with the teachings and matras from Jay Maisel’s: “you are responsible for every millimeter of the frame”, “show me the rip in the fabric”, “light-color-gesture”. This image was my only keeper of the day, but what a keeper it was. It will be a permanent member of my top 20 street photographs.

Beverly Hills, CABeverly Hills with Jerry Weber

The most recent images, one is featured at the top of this page, are from Santa Monica Beach and represents all that I am working to achieve now in my photography: walking into the scene to create deeply layered images capturing the full figure and the context behind while carefully managing the juxtapositions between the image elements.

Enjoy my portfolio gallery at the Los Angeles Center of Photography website. And I can’t help but plug and upcoming guest lecture workshop “Sharpening your Photographic Vision” with Sam Abell. The lecture is Dec 3, 2015with the workshop Dec 4–6, 2015.

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Looking for Relationships

No Conversations

Last week I feel in love with photographing downtown LA. I’ve been downtown many times, but never felt quite at home there and it was always hit or miss to find the shots. I’m trying to identify what was different, so that I can capture it in a bottle and repeat. Here are three things that were different:

  1. I used my 50mm lens instead of the 35mm (I’m talking effective focal length after accounting for the crop factor). While in Cuba, Oaxaca, and Portugal, the 35mm hardly ever strayed from the camera. But these are towns with narrow streets and intimate cultures. I think the 50mm may be better for places like downtown LA with its big wide streets and protective sense of privacy.
  2. I spent the better part of 3-days just photographing. I was in a groove where all I had to think about was photography. I hadn’t spent the better part of the day solving business problems. Slowly my mind wandered into that creative mode that I just don’t (can’t) show that much of at work.
  3. I worked alone. For much of the time I was on my own rather than shooting with other people. Although the safety of shooting can be prudent, shooting alone allowed me to wander more, linger more, and just plain not worry about if I was in someone else’s shot.

As I hone my street photograph, I am thinking more and more about the relationships and layers. In this image, for example, I see this photogenic, active woman in a stripped shirt doing something fairly indicative of LA (these bacon wrapped hot-dog carts are everywhere). I immediately start to figure out what other elements I’m going to include in the scene. I’m looking to create some relationship between the elements of the image. Originally it was just the vendor woman and the woman on her phone on the right. Then the scene got messy, but I had the camera to my eye and was able to identify the moment when these four faces all aligned to a good composition. Nothing occluding, just the faces in proximity for a conversation, but not.

A Day at the Station – Union Station

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.

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.

Smile

Smile

Some images deserve presentation with a big border and prominent attribution. Some images bring it all – content, structure, emotion, intrigue. Some images make you proud to be their creator.

This image was taken on a warm sunny winter afternoon in Santa Barbara. The local camera club had organized an outing to the Santa Barbara Zoo. And, while I wasn’t all that interested in taking animal portraits, I figured the zoo to be a good place to practice a little people photography. People at the zoo is a simple idea, but I had to make it harder. I would spend the day using a vintage 1970’s Mamiya C220 TLR (Twin Lens Reflex) camera that was gifted to me by a good friend. My film for the day was Kodak TMAX ISO 400 B&W.

Off I went to the zoo, looking for my opportunities and learning to use the camera all at the same time. I shot about 2 1/2 rolls at the zoo, 30 images. Most were boring. Some were down right desperate. For most of the day I felt like I was chasing the picture instead of having the picture come to me.

Lunch came to the rescue, an opportunity to leave the zoo and explore the neighborhoods. As we were looking for a parking space near our favorite Mexican restaurant, I noticed a barber shop on the corner. I walked over and stopped in front of the window. As I started fiddling with the camera, these two girls, bored and waiting for their brother or father for their hair-cut, turned to me and started playing for the camera. I positioned myself to use my shadow to see into the barber shop. Looked down into the waist-level finder, focused, cocked the shutter, and waited for the right moment.

Mamiya C220, Sekor 70mm f/2.8, Kodak TMAX 400, Clayton F76+ 8:00 min @ 68˚