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

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Yes, I photograph. Would you like to see what I’ve seen lately?

Glide

Yesterday I visited PhotoLA and met a seemingly nice bunch of photographers for lunch with the hopes of talking about shared passion. Lunch, however, didn’t go as planned.

During lunch, someone asked me “Are you a photographer?” I thought I knew the answer: “Yes, I am, thank you very much. Would you like to see some of my work?” But instead I hesitated, I stammered, and finally muttered some confidence-lacking statement about Computer Science and a day-job.

The question stopped me in my tracks because at that moment, in that setting, the question seemed empty and self-limiting. The questions I was longing to answer were more expansive: “Do you photograph?” “What do you photography?” and “Why do you photograph that?”

I do not define myself merely, simply, solely, as a photographer. Over my still-short 54 years, I have developed a high-level of proficiency in many things. I consider myself a musician, computer scientist, teacher, manager, presenter, photographer, good cook, daughter, sister, and wife. I am a passionate learner and teacher. I make my living as a technical manager building on a 25 year career in Computer Science. The many years I spent studying, performing, and teaching classical music are foundational to how I approach my life accomplishments. I study, I practice, I seek feedback from the masters, I teach in order to learn, I present in order to give back, and I perform in order to create.

The statement “I am a photographer” is far to limiting to fulfill a lifetime of desires or express a lifetime of experiences. It puts me in a box and narrows my path. I am myself. I work, play, and love. What I do for work, play or love is a reflection of myself not a definition of myself.

I am not defined by what I create, I create from my experiences and observations.

I am not defined by how many people see my work, I decide when and where to publish my work when it is ready and by the audience it is intended to reach.

I am not defined by the number of comments I give or receive on social media, I speak when I have something to say.

I do not live to be a photographer, I photograph because I am an observer and story teller. I use photography as a means of expression. To show people what I see that they may not have seen.

Yes, I photograph. Would you like to see what I’ve seen lately?

Gesture is not a grab-shot

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A judge once commented on one of my photographs with the phrase: “What a great grab shot”. It was intended to be a compliment but it also exposed some naivety about street and documentary photography in general. While it is true that in this style of photography you are dependent on the chance action that happens in front of you, hardly ever do you get your shot simply by seeing something, raising the camera, and taking the “grab shot”. To the contrary, those are more typically the shots you miss, not the shots you get. Once you see the action, it is too late.

Capturing good gesture, like photographing birds, requires that you observe and prepare. Sometimes your image will materialize and sometimes they will not.

Here are my tips for capturing gesture

Prepare

  • Set your background
  • Set your exposure (and possibly your focus)
  • Get comfortable with the subject and setting
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Take many images

  • Take as many as 20 or 30 images of the same person
  • Explore different angles
  • Practice your timing
Evaluate your results with the following questions

  • Is something happening?
  • Is there emotion?
  • What is the story?
  • Have you caught the action at its peak?
  • Is there anticipation?
  • Is there mystery?
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All post on “using gesture”

Shadow Bike – Returning Home

It’s been a few weeks since “the workshop” in “the building” came to a close. And having shown only images from New York up to this point, I’m finally ready to put up several images taken after the workshop. Did Jay’s messages sink in? Was I able to juice up my visual curiosity after a week of work? I certainly had my fears heading out to Venice Beach that Saturday afternoon with fellow “graduate” Jerry.  But, to be sure, I had a great time and returned with a few keepers.