Friday, March 30, 2012

An Exciting Week

Just to toot my own horn, a weeklong feature of my work began today at the Street Photography Blog and beginning next week my photographs will be featured in Camerapixo Magazine. To view the magazine online or download it, you need to register for free on the website. 

Ahhh, life is good (for the time being, that is).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using Metadata To Become An Accomplished Photographer

I was taken to task today by a photographer who viewed my work on a photo sharing website that I post to regularly. He asked me what camera and lens was used for a shot, and suggested that I be more diligent about posting metadata information along with the photographs. As a rule I don't post that information with images that I place anywhere. I may use the information to evaluate the effect the settings had on the final image, but I don't believe that information is of any use to anyone else. 

However I set my camera is dependent upon the situation as it unfolds before me. Unless someone were to be in that exact same situation, with the same subject matter, in the same setting, with the same light and shadows, at the same time of day, in the same position as I was, what possible use could that information have for anyone? I think none. Photographers become obsessive about numbers. Will it really help someone looking at my work to become a better photographer by knowing all that data, without an intimate knowledge of all the other parameters that went into making the image? No!

It would be much more meaningful for a budding shooter to ask me how I get so close to my subjects, or how I deal with the sometimes acerbic reactions from them. How to get candid shots and remain inconspicuous, or how I get such low angle perspectives. I relish the opportunity to share that information with others. But what aperture and shutter speed? What ISO? I can't see that it would help anyone to know that.

Here's two images that bear this out. In both images stating giving the focal length would be meaningless because I cropped both images. The proportions are 3:2, same as a 35mm negative. I could have been in close, shot very wide, and just trimmed the edges, or been far away, shot at 70mm and cropped to a small center. You can't tell which, even if you speculate because of the apparent depth of field. I sometimes use OnOne Softweare's Focal Point 2 plugin to blur backgrounds. The point is that the image works, it fulfills my vision and my story. As for the exposure (shutter speed and aperture) again meaningless info, given the state of modern photoshop/lightroom plugins, if I'm relatively close to a good exposure I can make the image work. What's the point of giving numbers that can't possibly enhance the viewer's appreciation of the image?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The First Ever Street Photographer

Well okay, he didn't use a camera. Okay, Okay, he didn't know what photography was. But he did say as you go about constantly observe, note, and consider the circumstances and behavior of  men as they talk and quarrel, or laugh, or come to blows, the actions of the men themselves, and the bystanders who intercede or look on.  And take note of them with rapid strokes thus, in a little book that you should always carry with you ....These things should not be rubbed out but preserved with great care, for the forms and positions of objects are so infinite that the memory is incapable of retaining them. He was an artist from Milan, and he wrote those words in his Notebooks. It was written around the year 1490. His name was Leonardo Da Vinci. The quote came from a book entitled Da Vinci's Ghost written by Toby Lester.

I'm certainly no Da Vinci, but I always have a camera with me, always, no exception, ever. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks that camera will be a much anticipated Fuji X Pro-1. Having a smaller camera will make life much simpler for me. I'll look much less conspicuous. But the camera, large or small, is my 'little notebook' that I always carry with me. With it I preserve with great care the infinite forms and positions of objects and people that my aging memory is incapable of retaining. And I record them for posterity.

Sherlock Homes always suggested to Dr. John Watson that there is quite a difference between looking and observing. It's that difference that separates a good street photographer from a snap shooter. To have a modicum of success as a street shooter I need to be constantly on my toes looking around at every face and every body motion. But that in itself isn't enough. I need to see how that person fits into the surroundings and environment, to see if there's a story there. The bottom line for a photograph to be effective street is that  it must somehow tell a story.

In the images below, I was walking on Fifth Avenue and trying to find people who were interacting with the windows of the opulent stores that line the street. In the first image I observed this gentleman standing with his arms crossed in front of him, it was a very uninteresting pose. But as I walked by, trying to look inconspicuous he noticed me and I thought I had lost the opportunity to grab a candid shot. I walked past him a few feet and turned suddenly just as he was dropping his arms and he glanced at me. With the mannequins behind him in the window, the position of his arm, and his glare at me the shot was made.

I saw this woman strolling up the avenue checking out all the windows of the jewelers. She stopped several times at windows, but the crowds were heavy that day and it wasn't possible to get the shot I wanted, with her facing the window examining the baubles. I wanted her reflection in the window also, and to get it I had to be at a particular angle which would make my presence much more noticeable to her. As she walked past the Cartier window she glanced in at a diamond necklace and I had just a second to grab the shot with her reflection.