Natural Available Light

The variety of natural/available light motivates me to look at a scene in different ways. The diversity of lighting characteristics provides many interesting perspectives on subjects I may otherwise not have noticed. Technically I have no problem with high ISO further expanding scenes I see & try to capture.

 

The variety of natural/available light motivates me to look at a scene in different ways. The diversity of lighting characteristics provides interesting perspectives on subjects I may otherwise not have noticed. Technically I have no problem with high ISO further expanding scenes I see & try to capture.

01
Shadows have an important role across all genres. This window accent in late afternoon light provided a wonderful display of contoured shadows. I have worked with this as a B/W image but I prefer the subtle hues in the original.

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The back-light was coming in from the barn door & with assistance from the drops of moisture it provided another layer of texture to a simple subject. When I first walked into the space the light is what got my attention. I then searched for a subject. There are many ways back-light can impact an image. With the proper position it can separate, add strength, create a mood or accent the subject.

03
A personal preference for floral images is a background that supports the primary composition without conflict. This can be frustratingly hard when I am trying to isolate the beauty of a single flower. In a situation where back-light is the dominant source, backgrounds usually have less light & I can easily reduce the depth of field letting the background become soft forms, diffused shadows & muted colors.

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Overcast & rainy can be a good time to get waterfalls if you crank up the ISO. This is 5K f29 at 1/60. The reflective falling water is the natural bright component but much of the atmosphere is in the shadows. This hike was one of the few times I regretted not having my tripod to use for a long exposure. Fortunately I had good foul weather gear.

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When doing street photography I listen for street musicians because they add layers to the scene. A septet of musicians on a corner is hard to miss. I think the trombone player recognized the need to lower himself for me to see the entire band. For just a moment I was in sync with their tune. The strong available light on the BG wall was over-blow but Photoshop, even with a jpg original, was helpful. The noise/grain isn’t a distraction in my eyes. ISO12800 may seem ridiculous but it was the setting I needed to capture this NOLA moment. In my mind, if I had had to set up fill flash the intimacy would have been gone.

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Landscape photography requires a commitment of getting on location for early am light that I don’t have. However flat light of mid-day, clouds & reflections can result in some nice captures. To integrate reflections in the frame I explore different perspectives & angles. At times examining the direction of light & reflections is a lot like walking around a pool table to find the best shot. This shot is just off of Rt 120 North Meadow of Yosemite.

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Sunset fits my lifestyle more than sunrise. Give me a Ferris wheel, a sunset, an American Flag & water to work with & I will find an image. If only their had been a gull in the upper right. The Puget Sound/Seattle area is a place I would enjoy exploring more.08
The soft diffused light on the only bright part of the frame pulls your attention to her somber face. While the color of her coat, her posture & the background hint of melancholy, the umbrella helps frame her face & also adds an element of structure into the scene. The unseen factor is that it was taken in Liverpool England, which has a reputation for dreary weather.

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This is where I say I Love Digital. When I walked into this tobacco-drying shed in Vinales Cuba I immediately was captivated by the harsh tropical sunlight reflecting off of the deep brown dirt floor. After 1 year of experimentation I understood the advantages of RAW & was comfortable with the low light capabilities of my camera. This is exactly what my eyes saw. Being able to almost immediately capture it was very rewarding. The entire environment offered numerous possibilities but I was drawn to the faces of people.

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I was still just getting used to the camera in 2014 & only shooting jpg. On a trip outside of Sarajevo I saw a fog-bow, which is a less common cousin to a rainbow. The very subtle color gradations can be seen with close examination. Working with this image motivated me to further explore the digital capabilities of my camera & Photoshop.

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I have indeed had moments when I wished I had equipment & experience with fill flash. I also have recognized missed opportunities because the tripod was in the trunk. However, I have learned that Natural Light is a challenging motivation in how I approach many of my subjects. Recognizing subjects & styles of photography I enjoy has been helpful to whatever improvement I’ve had in the past 8 years.

Looking Back for Tomorrows Goals

Although we begin a new year my 1st posting of ‘18 will look back & evaluate how my perspective of photography has evolved.

 

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I begin 2018 looking back & evaluating how my perspective of photography has evolved. Any capture by a camera immediately becomes a document of history. This image of my grandfather relaxing on the porch in Stow connects me with a man I barley knew but am deeply indebted to. It reinforced the connections a photograph can create. Operating the Bemus Point Stow Ferry I ran into a son of one of my fathers fishing pals Dr. Robert Schmalz Jr. He shared this image which was taken before I was born.

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A highlights of ‘17 was this image taking 3rd place in The Eddie Adams Show. It’s an honor to have any connection with this influential photojournalist. From the moment I snapped the shutter in Sarajevo in 2014, I knew I captured the character of the subjects. To have it recognized in a juried competition was very satisfying. The endless diversity of people & the human condition on streets are subjects that still motivate me.

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I’ve got comfortable with the ethics of editing my images that don’t touch on journalism or documentary. I still have the goal of capturing what my eyes see. HDR, can assist in adding details our eyes see but camera sensors can’t. I still believe over-saturated HDR  lacks an “actuality aesthetic”. Other images I’ve edited made me realize there is a 2nd opportunity to tell a story. A wildly over-exposed shot became a B/W image I’m happy with. A slightly out of focus image was manipulated into a frame capturing the moment I was after. OBTW I realize it’s in focus or not but I also remember Bresson said… “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

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Although I doubted I would take my enthusiasm for photography into the world of printing, I did. I learned printing, matting & framing require different perspectives. The image on the left was cropped for the web. To get a well-proportioned print & ensure a solid presentation hanging on a wall I went back & included more of the original shot on the right. Is it an improvement? It depends on if you are looking at the print hanging on the wall or the screen of your desktop. Obviously my PS work has improved.

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I enjoy spectacular landscape photography & I enjoy the opportunity to experience impressive vistas. However, I’ve discovered I don’t have the kind of dedication to this particular genre to take it to another level. I will still wander with my camera, however I will try to improve my photography skills with other subjects.

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Part of my family’s history,as well as my own, is connected to Chautauqua Lake. When I saw the Steamship Replica the Chautauqua Belle along the port side of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry I was transported to an earlier time when few other vessels on the water had mechanical power. In the months ahead I may try some Photoshop wizardry on this shot. Too bad I’m not really a wizard.

07

It has been almost 1 year since my trip to Cuba. The process of sorting/editing my images was a terrific opportunity for reflection on my abilities. It encouraged me to look forward to what I will do with photography. I’m hoping to cultivate connections for a showing of 15 or so of my portraits of Cuban People. A recent review I got from Lens Culture said my work “had incredible humanism in the portraits of Cuban people.” I liked that. The reviewer also said that, after looking at my blog, a book is something I should start working on. I don’t think that is going to happen.

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My own opinion of my sailing images is they are just slightly better than mediocre. That however will not stop me from pursuing this challenging subject I really enjoy. I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Newport RI to catch the 65 foot Volvo Racing beasts in May. Anybody care to join me???

08

I also would like to further develop a portfolio of dance photography. Dancers have balance, form, color, The Moment, texture & space. What better subject for a camera. They blend emotions & athleticism into statuesque animation for our eyes.  Any connections in this area would also be appreciated. Happy New Year.

 

 

Non-Talking Heads

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

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Some portraits will always convey personal memories & relationship. On the deck of The Harp & Fiddle Jerry Hughes returned my Ike 55 I loaned as back-up about 10 years ago. Since the early 80’s we have worked alongside each other in a spectrum of capacities. His professional attitude & personal friendship are traits I see in his wise eyes. A Chicagoan by birth he came to Pittsburgh via ND & LA. Thanks for everything!

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This docent/guide at Ft. Niagara had the perfect face of a young soldier. The soft reflective light bouncing off the deep walls of the fortress window was about perfect. I’m trying to engage interesting people to get more intimate photos. I did direct him where to look for the best light/shadows. The expression in his eyes of a young mans apprehension in a far away land clutching his weapon was his own contribution.

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I believe people at work exhibit a glimpse of their character. Especially people engaged with tools. This craftsman in Copper Alley Sarajevo focuses on a detail of a small object. Surrounded by his work, the old eyes guide his hands as they have thousands of times. People in the books of Studs Terkel have inspired me. Working, his 74 oral history classic, heightened my interest in the stories of the individual at work.

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A Power of the portrait are details giving a taste of personality. The eyes & the subdue smile framed by his goatee show a friendly person. Adding his hand into the shot emphasizes strength. I worked with Slappy & I can affirm he is the type of person you enjoy working with & being around. The non-studio staged portrait provides challenges. By having him tilt his head & cropping the image very tight I was able to fill the frame almost completely avoiding BG distractions.

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I like people in candid moments. Even without the full face I consider this a portrait. It shows emotions in a moment of waiting. Holding herself tight we get a glimpse of her anxious face in profile. The tree is a barrier she looks beyond. The umbrella adds weight to the moment. I like how the visual elements come together. Rain provides opportunities that you need to look for. The work of Philippe Halsman can be credited for breaking the constrains of traditional studio 3 point lighting portraits. Some of his work with Salvador Dali is amazing. Currently, the images of Annie Leibovitz are some of the most inspiring portraiture I see.

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Some people smile using all parts of their face. On a rainy day this parking attendant had a smile for everybody. The pith hat is a perfect “topper” to the beard, nose, cheeks, &  the squinting eyes. His face toughened by the weather dominates even though he is wearing a neon safety vest. This portrait shows how all our features display emotion.

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Andy I’s deep-set eyes in shadow are a drawing feature. Shadows on his cheek etch strong facial structure & the reserved smile defines his personality. Headsets literally tie him to his craft. He is one of many top quality sports camera ops I was privileged to work with during my career. As a replay operator, aka slomologist, I watched thousands of hours of events thru the eyes of dedicated professionals like Andy. Watching, looking & examining the work of others is a tremendous motivator.

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Some say out of the mouths of children come honesty. I believe innocent eyes are where you find honest emotion. These 2 lived on a farm near The Jungle Dome in Central Belize. I prefer being ignored & become a fly on the wall taking pictures. In this shot these 2 toddlers were intrigued by my every move. The eyes define curious. I try to be respectful of parents wishes when taking photographs of children.

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Randy Gilson is described as a master in the art of making something worthwhile out of what is seen as worthless. Somehow I never heard of RandyLand but when I heard the basic description of eclectic re purposed art it was enough of a hook to get me to visit. I won’t try to describe what he has done to a corner setting in the North Side of Pittsburgh other than with this portrait of him. He is one-of-a-kind with a mission that can be infectious.

Inspired by Humans of New York, photos like these are a goal for a 2-week trip to a country in the tropic of Cancer. I am practicing this genre to improve my approach & techniques with the goal of documenting people & stories of their lives. Suggestions welcomed as well as critique.  Coming up in my next post I look at 2 spirited sisters.

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The Parade of Stars

I can easily amuse myself on a crowded street by observing people as they pass.  My fascination with strangers began in the 60’s watching a live local TV show in Pittsburgh. As the audience was exiting the host gave the patrons a chance to say something to the camera on the way out. The emcee called it the Parade of Stars. I will send a free DVD copy of my documentary Chasing The River to anyone that can name the show, the host and the call letters of the TV station that produced it.

Zagreb Uncle

Since I enjoy watching people it shouldn’t come as any revelation I also have a good time photographing people on the street.  Until recently I didn’t know this was a genre with sub genres including street fashion and street portraits.  I just enjoy capturing candid images…Allen Funt…of people that grab my eye.

Unlike humans of NY portraitshttp://www.humansofnewyork.com/ which is  portraits with stories from the subjects…Studs Terkel…  I have no knowledge of the people so I make up my own stories.  This man on the streets of Zagreb was taken in 2010.  It was only the last 20 years of his life he had not lived under Tito Communism.  In the Winter of his life he witnessed significant change.  The contrast between him and younger Eastern Europeans coming of age after the collapse of “The Wall” was dramatic.  His face & the way he dressed reminded me of my Grandfather’s brothers.  I think he would have fit in at those big Christmas Eve dinners at my Grand Aunt’s house.

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I saw these eyes coming from 80 yards away!  As I was watching the diversity of people promenade on the streets of Sarajevo these two women grabbed my attention.  Even though I have no real credibility to comment on fashion, these two had very distinctive Hijabs.  Their fur & make-up set off contrasting facial expressions & authority.  I imagine the woman on the left is an older & wiser mentor to her younger naive companion.   She is about to extol insight into something they both are observing & the young-ling is eager to learn.

Speaking of fashion 2 things.  First, I did once win “Best Dressed” at the Phil Simms Bowling Tournament so I do have an iota of fashion sense.  Secondly, if you are interested in Street Fashion Photography I can recommend  Bill Cunningham New York  A quirky individual that still shoots of film.

texter

I have sub genres including people on phones aka “The World Around Me isn’t as Interesting as This Little Electronic Device”.  With a few exceptions I deplore the way some in society use smart phones as hypnotizing web portals & communication pacifiers.  VERY few snap images using phones with consideration for anything other than  diary-esk sharing via social media. Instead of freeing themselves from the office they take work everywhere they go.  Gaming & mindless web browsing distract  from here & now to a place that placates short attention spans.  I enjoy the world and most of the people around me more than any device.  For me, retirement equals flip phone!!!

This photo was taken in Balboa Park SAN.  As I am prone to do when taking photos of people I found a spot to stand & blend in.  I observed a few different traffic areas with good bg & lighting where I could snap portraits as people passed by. One of the 1st details to catch my eye was the “ink” on this woman. I hoped she would walk in an area where I could get a good shot of her tattoos. Ink is another sub genre of mine.  After 20 min or so I was ready to wander elsewhere & she hadn’t taken her eyes off of her phone.  I have no idea if she was texting, playing Angry Birds, searching top rated things in SD or reading Pillars of the Earth.  I do know she was ignoring an inspiring public park.

behind you 006

Another sub genre of mine is echo/feedback of the world I capture. With the flood of cameras people routinely have, “People Taking Pictures” is one of my go-to subjects.  Everybody is now a street photographer.  Why not…I know I enjoy doing it.  However, I enjoy the old-school hands on feel of a DSLR with optical options.  But most importantly for me is connecting the eye into the viewfinder where final/critical decisions are made about framing or snapping.  And, I still use the editing process to separate the wheat from the chafe to better polish the visual story I want to tell.  For some reason these 2 remind me of a quote I associate w/Annie Liebovitz that every experienced photographer knows…”Sometimes the best shot is behind you!”

I can recommend a good doc about an unknown street photographer.  Her work can be a template for anyone who wants to improve their urban eye.  Finding Vivian Maier