Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Staying Alert

Walking the streets of New York City can be very challenging. There's just so much going on to take in that it can be a bit overwhelming. I had just spent about three hours in midtown, and decided it was time to head back to the train. I turned the corner from West 57th Street onto Ninth Avenue and headed south. I like to walk on Ninth Ave. There are many small restaurants and shops which means there's always people about. The avenue is growing in  popularity but has yet to be gentrified so it still has the old atmosphere of Hell's Kitchen. 

I was totally absorbed in looking down both sides of the avenue to see on which side of the street I wanted to walk. It's important to think about because of the way I hold my camera. It's usually slung  on a strap that crosses my body and hangs at my right hip. If I was intending to shoot into restaurant windows I needed to have those windows on my right as I walked. 

There's a small park at the corner of West 57th Street and Ninth Avenue that has some tables and chairs at which people can sit to have lunch or a snack. People munching is not one of my favorite subjects to shoot. Nor do I shoot the homeless people who often camp out around the periphery of the park. So I usually just walk past it, looking for other subjects.

I took note of this person in the park, said to myself, 'interesting guy, might be a challenge to shoot' but I was thinking about Ninth Avenue and walking back to the train station, so I kept walking. I had plenty of time, but I had this mindset going and that can be a bad thing for me. Then I stopped and thought, 'if I don't at least try for that shot I'll beat myself up all the way home.' So I doubled back. 

I try to stay as invisible as possible when I shoot street. I aim to capture my subjects interacting with their surroundings as naturally as possible, so I don't want my presence to interfere. I had probably two passes by this guy to get the shot I wanted before he caught onto me. I got off two bursts of exposures, but I knew after I started to walk away, that even though I might have gotten something workable, I blew it. I didn't get the shot I really wanted. The shots I got were taken from the sidewalk outside the park about 20 feet away, but I needed to go into the park to get closer and walk past him at about 5 feet away- shooting from my hip with my lens set to 24mm. I like this shot, but it lacks the immediacy and presence I try to grab in my pictures. Still, he was such an interesting character. 

I processed the image to put him just to the right of center so there would be enough space for him to be looking off into through those chic shades. With the combination of the hair and mustache, sunglasses, headphones, bomber jacket and clogs there's enough going on to make it an interesting shot. 

I just wish I'd gotten closer ......

You can see the image full size by clicking on it.