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.


  1. great work
    i hope that you like 500px now without of dilslike bottun
    regads friend

    1. Mislav thanks for your comment here. As for 500px the new layout is really bad. Without a wall many of us have lost a way to stay in touch with others without having to comment on a photo. The flow page is totally stupid, and the dislike button is still there, the name changed and it got smaller, but the idiot trolls that slam other's work with it are out in full force as usual. The only good thing about the new format is that it may encourage people to look elsewhere for a photo sharing site, like maybe

  2. Hey Gene love what you wrote here, i actually wrote something along the same lines yesterday myself about street photography, would love you opinion

    Great minds think alike :)


  3. La foto, como siempre para morirse de envidia (¡qué lejos estoy de lograr cosas así!). Lo de 500px, totalmente de acuerdo. No veo porqué en lugar de mejprar han hecho lo posible para convertir en algo totalmente sinsentido la página. ¿A qué viene eliminar el wall?. ¿A qué viene eliminar el botón de "friends"?. ¡Se hace imposible seguir las fotos de los amigos con el nuevo método!. ¿qué sentido tiene el botón "dislake"?. Si una foto no te gusta, pues no la votas y ya está. Tampoco se entiende bien el método usado en las votaciones. Bajan y suben las puntuaciones de forma aparentemente aleatoria... En fin, una lástima porque podría ser un buen lugar...
    ¡Un abrazo!. Estés donde estés, te seguiré.

  4. Hi Gene. I commented on this shot 'way back when' on 500px. I see that you are not there anymore. I'm really struggling with it now. Trying to find people and their work is not an easy task. I figure that the main purpose of the site now is for people who will point buyers to their work. The social is gone. Trying to work with G+ but having few interactions. Twitter is a little better. I'll be sending folks your way.

  5. Great character you have captured. A very special type.

  6. Interface 500px was not friendly ...
    Keep up your work here on your site.
    Yours sincerely Vlad Olikov from Russia

  7. Dear Gene Lowinger,
    We, Czech cultural magazine A2 (, would like to publish this great picture. Would you agree? If you would, please, can you send us a picture in a good quality? Please let us know as soon as possibly.

    Ondrej Klimes