Umbrellas seem so cliche in street photography, but I just love the way they add interest to a composition. The heavy rain at the Washington D.C. Holiday Market allowed me to capture lots of umbrella shots. This woman is clearly on a mission. I love her focus and the way the umbrella gets her right between the eyes.
I am extremely excited to have 6 days off in a row at a time when everyone else is looking forward to the holiday, taking at least part of that time off, and distracted from email. I decided to hit the street today to get in my 10,000 steps, take in some simple pleasures like a cuban sandwich at Bodega, and see what I could find in downtown St. Petersburg. It rained cats and dogs most of the day, but I had my umbrella for insurance. I decided to focus on reflections for a series I'm calling convergence. I love looking at complex reflections to try to figure out what's going on. I captured a couple interesting images today. This one is from Daddy Kool Records, one of my favorite named businesses in the mid town section of Central Avenue.
Inspired by Kali Quinn and her Compassionate Creativity Contagion, "you must continue to choose to create. No one is going to make you do it". Sometimes projects need to marinate, but that doesn't mean you should stop creating. You never know when a new idea will pop up, and it's often when you're feeling least inspired. I have a few project ideas, but time and travel are slowing me down. I discovered I may have the making of a new project that is less dependent on time and place. Browsing my photographs, I realized I'm seeing shots in which the people match the background. It's a little uncanny because I don't consciously notice it at the time. This could be a collection in the works. I think I'll call it chameleon.
While I'm attending a Magnum Photography Workshop in Provincetown, I'm also participating in a Compassionate Creativity Challenge. Today's challenge is to practice what you preach. I have never done a good job with work/life balance, yet I tend to preach it to everyone else. For one week, I'm really focused on making photographs, not work. No more than one peek at email each day. Creatively, it's been a bit of a struggle. I'm trying to improve my street photography by getting closer to subjects and interacting differently with people in general. The workshop is documentary, and I've had a hard time finding a story for which I have a deep interest. It was frustrating to give it a go with a couple possibilities that didn't pan out, especially seeing the great documentary work of others. Today I edited the shots for the week. While I'm not crazy about the impromptu portraits I've been taking, there were a few keepers. I do believe the interactions have given me greater confidence to get closer and improve my street photography. Today I was true to myself and just spent the day shooting what I like. Not sure where the story is yet, but I feel much better about the photographs I'm taking. It will be interesting to go through the final edits tomorrow. Rather than worry about hard fast rules or what others think, I have to remember I'm doing this for myself. That's the only way I'm going to find my own creative voice. It's definitely a journey.
I'm so fortunate to be attending a Magnum Photography Workshop in Provincetown, MA. In attendance and doing nightly lectures are Constantine Manos, Bruno Barbey, David Allen Harvey, and Olivia Arthur. Bruce Davidson will be here tomorrow. Students can apply to work with a specific photographer. I chose to work with Olivia Arthur, as she is one of the few female Magnum photographers. Olivia is a documentary photographer. She is really pushing me out of my comfort zone and helping me get closer to the people I interact with on the street. It's a process, but I feel I'm making progress. Olivia is pictured here in the passenger side of the Cadillac with her assistant for the week, a renowned P-Town photographer in her own right, Angela Russo. The car is Angela's baby, Pearl. Like Angela, Pearl has character and attitude. As is true with any workshop, I'm learning as much from the other attendees as I am from the pros. Eric Kim, a prolific blogger, street tog, and curator of all things street photography is here and working with Constantine Manos. It's especially fun to follow Eric's blog while he's here living it.
To contemplate is to look at shadows. -Victor Hugo
Visiting Maine over Labor Day weekend is becoming a tradition for us. It's a little less crowded and still cool by southern standards. These boys didn't have a care in the world even though the first day of school was less than a day away. In Florida, we curse the summer and revel in the first slight drop in humidity - a sign only true Floridians recognize as the season change from summer to fall. In the north, people grasp at the very last seconds of every day in summer. They stay up late on Sundays and celebrate every moment. Here's to capturing the last moment of summer.
Reflective photographs always demand a second look. What is real? What is reflected? What's inside? What's outside? This image has been marinating for a while. I couldn't decide what I thought about it, yet I kept returning to look at it.
I especially liked this composition because it was not posed. I watched these guys skateboard around Memorial Square. When they finally took a break, they just sat down in this nice layout that allowed me to capture them at a good angle in defused evening light. Still it could have been better. The young man in the black shirt is fading into the trees. Adam pointed out that had I moved a little to the left, I may have been able to get the trees off to the side and use the sky as a backdrop against the black t-shirt. Professional critique is so valuable, especially when the emotion around getting a shot can cloud perception. (Note #1 to self - figure to ground. Note #2 to self. Settle down, breath, and take your time.) It's easy to take lots of shots and get a few decent photographs. It's nearly impossible to get a great one.
But, it's fun trying.
I've been thinking a lot about editing. Not post processing, but editing as in making decisions about what is worthy of attention - or not. I review hundreds of images and may only come out with a few that truly catch my eye...precious fewer that feel worthy. In an effort to improve the odds, I'm trying to edit more while shooting rather than on the computer. To do so, I need to understand why a certain scene holds interest for me. What makes me stop to take the shot? Composition is only part of it. I wonder how much is subconscious.
In this scene on Wickenden, was I intrigued by the young woman reading a flyer in the window, or did I see the flyer first? Dreaming out loud. I only consciously noticed the words while looking back over the images later. Yet that's what I had been doing earlier in the day when I had the pleasure of meeting Kali Quinn, a Providence theater artist /performer /teacher /professor /connector /writer who is passionate about compassionate creativity. You can't help but dream out loud when talking to her.
It's clear Kali has a gift for inspiring creativity in others. As I was leaving our meeting, she gave me a little booklet made from the folded flyer of her solo show. On the thick paper, typed with an old fashioned typewriter, are 56 ways you can cultivate compassionate creativity for yourself and your communities. I have no doubt they will continue to inspire me. A few resonating with me at the moment... #3 Look to be surprised. #19 Remember that an opinion is flippant. A point of view evolves over a long time. #20 Talk to strangers. #32 Allow the picture in your head to be flexible, bendable, impressionable. #44 Use your art as a vehicle to constantly learn more about other things. #50 Remember that everything is an interpretation.
Thank you, Kali! I have another one to add...dream out loud.
Festivals, concerts, and events where people flock offer many opportunities to encounter interesting people.. At the New Orleans Jazz Festival, I was always moving. I learned that I need to stay in one place and work the scene a little longer. Here, at this small summer concert in Providence, I decided to stay in one place. It's clear upon review of the contact sheet (and some editing advice from Craig) that I need to move a bit, get closer, and work the scene from different angles. I really see the value of keeping all shots, letting them simmer, and going back to review after a few days... or longer. It's so clear that I missed stories-within-stories by observing from a distance. You don't always see this in the moment with camera in hand and life buzzing around you. Taking time to analyze the work and internalize the mistakes is the only way to improve next time. This shot is a good example. I love this young woman's pose. You're probably thinking, which young woman. How much better this pose would be just a bit closer. Practice, practice, practice.
Street photography can be a great passion for anyone with a busy life. Typically, a busy life includes multiple encounters with human beings, whether at work, on a lunch hour, in a parking garage, or in airports. I'm working on a number of projects to inspire myself to shoot more, but finding time is a challenge. You would think traveling for work to multiple locations would offer so many new environments to explore and capture. Truth is, traveling for work usually means you're working. There's not as much time as you think to explore in the evenings due to extended days and dinner meetings. But, where there's a will there's a way. On the last trip I decided to take out the camera in the airport. It's generally a good place for people watching and it's nice to take advantage of a time when you're otherwise stuck with limited mobility. The backdrops in airports are getting better. Art, sculpture, and architecture add interest. One flight with a layover means three airports. It shouldn't take long to accumulate a collection in multiple airports. Side note - probably best not to shoot in the security area.
I took the plunge and went with the Fuji XT-1 with a 27 mm f2.8 lens. It's funny how accustomed we become to our cameras. It takes a little time to get used to the feel of a new camera in your hands, the way the shutter clicks, the electronic viewfinder, and the look of digital files. While I love my Canon 6D, I'm all about a high quality camera that is small and light for street. I had the chance to warm up this weekend while in Washington DC. I really enjoy shooting people in museums. First of all, the light is typically good. Secondly, you're surrounded by interesting compositions. Thirdly, people tend to disperse in ways that open up opportunities. This image was taken in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. A self portrait of sorts in the reflection and a curious onlooker.
It's difficult to confidently take a photograph of a stranger on the street AND simultaneously account for composition and light. I'm still working on it. I need to get to the point where composition comes naturally. While searching for resources on composition, I found Adam Marelli, a photographer and sculptor with classical art school training. He gave a lecture at B&H entitled, Bridging the Gap: Classical art designed for photographers. Adam also offers 1:1 review sessions that focus on your personal photography goals. Mine is to interact with people differently and improve my approach to composition and light. He challenged me to visit a few cafes, approach ten people, and ask permission to take their photograph using the cafe window as a side light. This has been a great exercise because I'm getting over my apprehension engaging people. I'm learning more about light and gauging what works and what doesn't. While I don't usually ask permission in street photography, my confidence is building. I can better manage my anxiety and remain calm and steady. This allows me to focus as much on composition as I typically do on getting a quick, candid shot. Next challenge is to practice making it all come together in a split second.
I've always enjoyed exploring and shooting urban settings, but my love of street photography took off at Craig Litten's New Orleans Street Photography Workshop. What more can you do to create a perfect storm of photo opportunities? French Quarter on the weekend, Henri Cartier-Bresson at A Gallery for Fine Photography, the New Orleans Jazz Festival (Bruce Springsteen was there), and a passionate, accomplished, supportive group of fellow photographers. Spending time with Craig and the group confirmed that the true experts are always learning. Craig is an excellent teacher. He is very patient and meets each student where they are at the moment. He continues to send me updates and encourage my work. As with any great teacher, he is also an incredibly passionate learner. He learns from everyone and shares everything he learns. That is really what this journey is about - sharing my learning path and the shots I take along the way.
I believe in learning with a vengeance. I took a couple traditional photography courses at RISD. But, I also comb YouTube for instructional videos, take online Udemy courses now and then, connect with amazing accomplished photographers online, subscribe to photography blogs, follow great teacher-bloggers like Eric Kim, attend photography meetups, and invest in workshops that allow me to set aside immersive, quality time to learn from great teachers and the amazing students who share this passion. I also look at numerous photography books. (Check out Eric Kim's 75+ Inspirational photography books you gotta own.) Flickr, 500px Facebook, and Twitter provide other avenues for connecting with photographers (why photographers should love Twitter) . My advice to everyone, whatever you love, LEARN WITH A VENGEANCE!!