Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why street

As I rode the train into New York City today, I was tuned into the growing buzz of pleasant expectation. There's many reasons why I enjoy shooting street. I'm asked about it often but don't have ready answers, so  I'm constantly trying to distill my feelings into substantive answers. When I walk the streets I feel immersed in the randomness of the lives and incidents around me. And yet, while it all appears to be chaotic,when there's a chance interplay of things unrelated a kind of order is generated, and I want to grab that moment. So my photography becomes a time machine, a bookmark in time, which I can then 'develop' in my post-processing.

There's a constant undercurrent of turmoil in the restlessness and perpetual motion of the city - people rushing about, traffic zipping along in a kaleidoscope of colors (a lot of yellow from the cabs) - that could easily overload my senses. It becomes a hodgepodge of ugly noise and visual stimuli. But when I look at it through my viewfinder, an order and structure is superimposed, and with that comes a visual poetry that makes sense of the chaos.

As I walked down Fifth Avenue this afternoon I noticed two gentlemen standing in front of a store window. I wanted to get a shot of the two of them with the store display between them. There was a sudden noise about half a block behind me and everyone in my vicinity turned to look at what caused the disturbance (including the mannequin). The arm position of the gentleman on the left was perfect. I shot a series of six frames as I slowly moved past them unnoticed because of the disturbance. Unfortunately there were so many people on the street that only two of the shots worked at all. Not quite the perfect triangle I'd hoped for, but the arm gesture and the three looking in the same direction made the image for me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Now Say Cheese!

I love to walk around the area of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. The windows of the Bergdorf Goodman store are always interesting and the people walking past looking in strike interesting poses in counterpoint to the mannequins in the windows. The knee and elbow bends especially.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Picture of the Day

I don't have much to say about this image, except I like it. The girl with goldilocks hair framed on two sides by guys seemed an interesting composition. I picked up the camera quickly to frame the shot in the viewfinder, and at the last second the fellow on the left, caught by my sudden movement, looked right into the lens. It's not what I had hoped for, but the crisp details that the XP1 captures can make an image work by themselves.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Los Tres Amigos

This afternoon on Scott Kelby's webcast of his program called The Grid his guest was Joe McNally. Joe spent an hour discussing and critiquing photographs that were submitted for consideration. His insights and suggestions were instructive and enlightening. I wish there were more of this kind of material presented in this format. The potential for learning on the web from wonderful practitioners and experts in their fields is just not realized often enough. There is a plethora of webinars presented by software developers about their products - my favorite is Nik Software - and often there are webinars about digital photography gear. There are quite a few venues for taking classes (for a fee) such as Peachpit Press and Kelby Training. But few actually get into the nitty gritty of the esthetics of images. It's always a touchy subject because, after all, what is beautiful to one person may be poison to another. It really is in the eye of the beholder. But when I listen to a master such as Joe McNally, Jay Maisel, or Vincent Versace I always come away having learned something that I can put to use in my work and adapt to my own personal style. But rarely, if ever, is the reviewer a person well versed in the craft and art of street photography. How wonderful would it be to have someone like Bruce Gilden or Elliott Erwitt do a class like that.

I took this shot on Fifth Avenue with my Fuji X Pro-1. When I was out that particular day I set my goal to shoot always looking through the viewfinder - I didn't take one shot that day from the 'hip'. I dressed inconspicuously and wandered around looking in store windows and at buildings, pretending to be a tourist - pointing the camera at typical touristy kinds of subjects, looking through the optical viewfinder at the scene that was evolving at the edges of the frame. When I saw the shot that I wanted, I quickly recomposed, refocused, and got the shot I was after. That's much the same way I used to work with my Leica M6. It's taken me a bit of an effort to get back into that mode, but my success rate has increased dramatically.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wide Angle for Street Shooting

The only lens I have for my Fuji X Pro-1 is the 18mm f2 Fujinon X mount. That makes it effectively a 27.5mm lens with the APS-C sensor. It's just a tiny bit too long for my preferences. When I used my D700 for street shooting it was always mounted with the 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens, and I rarely zoomed out from 24mm. My favorite lens to use on my Leica M6 was always the 21mm f2.8 which had incredible clarity and wonderful wide angle range. If I had my way, that's the focal length I'd have on the XP1. Rumor has it that the next lenses to be released by Fuji will be a 14mm f2.8 which translates into a 21mm effective focal length, and the first of the zooms for the camera which will be an 18-72mm f4 lens with image stabilization. The 14mm lens would be perfect for my shooting, and if the zoom image quality equals that of the 18mm prime lens, I'd be in lens heaven.

Wide angle lenses work best for me when I shoot street firstly because in New York people are always out. With a 'normal' or long lens I would have to be far away enough from my subject to be able to compose the shot properly and that space would allow for too much interference by passing pedestrians. Secondly, while I like to have my subject fill much of the frame real estate, I also want to be able to include enough of the surrounding area to contribute a sense of place. Two quotes come to mind. The first by Robert Capa - if your pictures aren't good enough, it's because you aren't close enough. The second by Bruce Gilden - if you can smell the street, it's a street photograph.

I was walking across 57th Street in Manhattan the other day, and there was this gentleman singing excerpts from Verdi's Rigoletto on the corner of Seventh Avenue. I knew I had to get the shot, so I put a dollar in his tin can and he gave me a personal performance.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Windows In Progress

On the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and 72nd Street there's a beautiful old building that is owned by the designer Ralph Lauren. The bottom floors of the building are a Ralph Lauren retail store which has now expanded across Madison Avenue to include the property on the southwest corner.

Reflections and the semi-opacity of glass always catches my attention because it affords the opportunity to create an image in which the physical reality and reflection can be mixed to create a metaphor for what is perceived.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Sometimes I just get lucky. I couldn't have planned this shot any better. I was attracted to the two young ladies framing the older lady in the middle when one of them turned and sneered at me. That expression and the 'Juice' on the door made the shot for me (to say nothing of the woman in the back with a pizza box on her head!).