Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is film still relevant?

I happened on a travel article (http://tinyurl.com/kitglsy) this morning written by Melanie Kaplan for the Washington Post travel section. The article talks about a "new trend" in photography - using film. While Ms. Kaplan's article deals mostly with the re-introduction of the Polaroid-style instant film, I thought I would open the can of worms on film and look back on my own film experience spanning 35 years.
I came to photography (and I am talking about something other than being an occasional snapshooter) later in life than a lot of people.I was 31 years old when my wife took me to a local electronics store in Fairfax, VA, and told me I could buy as 35mm SLR camera and lens. (Yes, she did give me a monetary limit. No top-of-the-line Nikon or Canon or the infamous rangefinder Leica!) I spent about an hour handling various camera bodies with their standard 1,8/50mm lenses. In the end, I picked an Olympus OM-10 and Zuiko 1,8/50mm as my weapon of choice. The year was 1978.
The next step, of course, was film selection. Within a short amount of time, I settled on two Kodak films - one color and one black&white. I would use these two films exclusively for the next 20-plus years.
Initially, I tried several color negative, or print, films. But those films just did not work for me. I enjoyed the one-hour processing but to see the images I needed to do prints. Yeah, I know that is so "old school" but scanners like my current Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 ED were not available to me back then. But the images from the various negative films did not strike a chord within me. You know, those images that just beg to be shared.
So I shifted to color positive, transparency/slide, film. One film began to stand out to my eyes. One of the top films of the day was Fuji Velvia, an ASA50 film, but I did not like the skin colors that Velvia registered. Kodak's Kodachrome25 renders the tones to my liking but was just too slow for my style of shooting. Enter Kodak's Kodachrom64. I was in love. Processing took longer but no need for prints so overall costs dropped. Add in that, in that day and age, most magazines would only accept slides for consideration to print.
For black&white films, it was different. My first roll went to the local one-hour processing lab again but the images came back all muddy. None of the great tonal range and contrast that I was seeing in the landscape prints of Ansel Adams (I had no knowledge of the Zone System at that time) or the images of Henri Cartier-Bresson and other photojournalists of the day. In the end, I took a couple of classes at the local community college and learned the rudimentary process to developing and printing my own images. What an amazing difference there was in b&w images when you have total control over the development and printing of them. I tried different Ilford and Kodak films and settled on Kodak Tri-X, an ASA400 speed film.
Today, the only film I shoot is Tri-X as Kodochrome64 is no longer available. And, even as good as K64 was, I am not sure I would have a need to shoot it today. As anyone who has visited this blog or my flickr stream, facebook pages, or website, it is apparent that I am totally hung up on b&w imagery. I was never a good color photographer in my opinion. I spend too much time watching expressions, movement, and the light that I very seldom remember the colors. My two new digital cameras are setup so their electronic viewfinders show only b&w representations and, for me, that is great as it helps me to photographically "see" the image better.
In my early shooting days, I reached a point where I would mentally "see" an images in b&w tones rather than color when I was shooting b&w film. I am not sure I could do that today with digital SLRs where you see only what the camera sees. But when I pul out my dad's old Yashica rangefinder, I do tend to see as I did back then. Something about shooting b&w film that triggers something in my brain.
For today's images, I dug into my negative files that I have scanned in the past year or so as I try to digitize everything. I picked one from my early days of shooting and one from 2011.
The first one is another of my wife on her birthday. It was shot with the same camera/lens combo she had let me buy the previous year and Tri-X film. Many people do not like Tri-X as it is too contrasty for their eyes but I love the rendering that Tri-X provides. Hell, sometimes I even boost the contrast a little!
 Besides the fact that this image conjures up all sorts of emotions within concerning my "model" here, I love how the Tri-X tonal range handles the light. At that time, I had been shooting enough Tri-X that, instead of "seeing" in color, my brain took over I saw her as this image presents - in black&white. Now I know she is a blue-eyed blonde but I cannot tell what shade of eyeshadow or fingernail polish she was using that day.
But the ability to "see" in b&w is something that has eluded me (not including the new cameras' capabilities) in recent years.
EXCEPT when I started using Tri-X in my dad's old Yashica rangefinder. There is something about shooting with film in that rangefinder that triggers the old responses. My mind doesn't necessarily disregard colors but tends to see the colors in shades of grey. When I develop the film these days, I can't remember what the colors were. The second image was shot during the Seaside Fourth of July parade in 2011. I was trying to see if I wanted to return to shooting nothing but film (something I may still do some day!). I know there was a lot of color that day but I have no idea what the colors were in this shot! All I saw was a range of greys.
 If you have looked at my flickr stream, you might have seen this image before. But I love the kid here. He was nice enough not to fire his water cannon but I love the story it tells.
Anyway, that is today's post. I never know what I am going to post so stop back by when you get a chance. There is no telling what dumb thing I will do or post next!!
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Exposure/credit lines do not pay bills


Editor's note: This will be a long post as I get on my soapbox to rant!

When I moved to Georgia, I decided to join the local photography club in hopes of meeting up with some local professionals and getting a feel for the local area's needs. I thought this was the best way to see where my skills might benefit local businesses and other organizations. The club, however, is made up of enthusiastic people most of whom have never derived their total livelihood from photography. At most, it has provided supplemental income to the members who do weddings and/or portraits as a sideline. Many of these people also have some of the latest bodies and lenses that I, as a working photojournalist, did not have.
When I was forced out of the newspaper business in 2008 (after being a working pro for a decade) due to the economic recession, I returned to a previous career field to pay the bills. That career field ended with another layoff in 2012. With the Georgia move, I had decided to go back into photography fulltime.
With my background being in documentary photography/photojournalism, I still was hoping to land a fulltime staff job or, at the very least, pick up some freelance work. But with no one returning emails to job submissions (I turned 65 in 2012), I finally gave up when the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire 28-person photo department.
I then decided to try and break in to doing some work for local non-profit organizations (NPOs) as a way of making a few bucks. I was not looking to make a killing. I just wanted to make a few dollars to supplement retirement income.
Through the photo club's network, I learned of a workshop for local NPOs being done by a successful photographer who makes a living through supporting NPOs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In fact, she travels the world doing shoots for these type of organizations. I attended the workshop and introduced myself as a photographer new to the area looking to support local organizations.
Several weeks late, I happened on an opportunity to support a local NPO that was producing a play as a fundraiser. I thought doing it pro-bono would be a way to get my foot in the door of the NPO house. It would benefit the NPO with free promotional photos and me with some word-of mouth recommendations.
Shortly after I began documenting the rehearsals, the monthly meeting of the photo club was held. The club president mentioned he had been contacted by same organization that sponsored the workshop to see if the club would be interested in providing photo services for local NPOs. Our club president said there was no mention of any payment for these services other than credit line. There was some discussion at this point but I voiced some opposition to the proposal. The matter was discussed a little but was tabled as there were just a few members at the monthly meeting.
A few days later, I put together my objections to the proposal and emailed it to the entire club membership.These objections included the effect on local FULLTIME photographers whose profit margins could be impacted and costs associated with doing pro-bono work (all of the overhead costs associated such as equipment (both cameras as well as computers), internet, vehicle costs, time spent shooting and post processing, etc.) as well as the professional skills required. I think the last one offended some people but shooting flowers, sunsets, and the occasional wedding/portrait is not the same as documenting an NPO's mission and cause in a way that is both creative and ethical. In the end, I believe the club will take on the proposal to support the local NPOs. AND that is ok if that is what the majority wants to do. But, for me, this kind of effort by a group of concerned amateurs, while noble, further devalues photography as a profession. With digital photography, everyone believes they can do professional work but very few have had to produce professional work day in and day out because their very survival depended on it.
Don't get me wrong. If you want to support a local organization with whatever your skill set is as a pro-bono effort, I am all for it. But on a personal level and not as club that is saying it is providing a "service".
Like the title says, exposure or credit line does not pay bills.
OK, enough on my soapbox and on to the images.
During the documenting of the NPO's theater production, I sent a number of images to the director to use as she saw fit in promoting the event. All I asked for was photo credit.
And it was great when the local newspaper ran the image and did give me photo credit. But the image that was used was not one I would have chosen. This is the image the paper was sent:

This image was one I considered the least creative of the bunch. While the expressions are good, I felt the image was too balanced and static to really grab the attention of the viewer. I would have much preferred this one:
 or this one:
 In image #2, I like the dominant figure (one of the leads) and the trailing line of cast members because of the diagonal line created that helps draw the eye across the image. While the spacing between the dominant figure and the next actor is a little more than I would like, I still believe that #2 is one of my stronger images from that particular night. Image #3 also projects a diagonal line though not as pronounced at #2. But there is still a diagonal relationship from the tall guy to the shorter woman and, due to the fact they were further back on the stage, the shorter women on the right.
But, as with all creative viewpoints, it is strictly the eye of the beholder that comes into play. I think the director went with image #1 because it showed all three leads on equal footing.
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It is all about the images

Editor's note: Had some problems with the initial entry so this is a re-post.

At the start of attempting this blog, I made mention that it is all about the images. So. let me look for an image I like and post. (Actually, I decided to expand on this and posted four images)
The first image is a shot I took on an 8-day Carnival cruise. My wife and I had an aft-facing cabin and were standing out on our balcony as the ship backed into its berthing position in Colon, Panama. We were right next to one of the aft-wrap cabins (the deck wraps along the back and around on the side of the ship-this is my dream cabin). After docking, the woman in the cabin came out to do some stretching using the deck railing. Behind her was the city of Colon and I thought it mad a good shot of the "haves and have-nots" theme. Especially when the cruise director told people that they should not wander the streets of downtown Colon. It was just too dangerous.


The second shot was on another Carnival cruise. We were on our way back to the port in St. Lucia when I spotted these clothes hanging in the rain. It reminded me of my childhood when we did not have a dryer. The only way to get the clothes dry was to hang them outside. This was something my siblings and I had to do on occasion when directed by our mom.


Both compositions are simple and hopefully lead the viewer to come up with their own interpretation of the image.
Since the first two images are from my archives, I thought I would also add a couple of new ones from the Fuji X-System cameras that have replaced my Nikon DSLRs. My current stable of gear includes a fixed lens X100S with a 2,0/23mm (35mm in full frame) and an X-E1 with a 1,4/35mm (52mm in full frame). The following two images were shot in near darkness backstage during the dress rehearsal of a theater production being sponsored as a fundraiser by a local non-profit. Both were shot using the autofocus capabilities of the cameras at ISO3200. Some minor noise reduction in Nik Dfine cleaned up the images easily and I had no problem getting the autofocus to lock on.
From the X100S:


From the X-E1:


I am starting to enjoy the change in how I view the world with only a couple of short focal length prime lenses. It is a work in progress but my "shooting eye" is slowing coming around, don't ya think?
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How do I set myself FREE?


I have several blogs that I frequent on what is pretty much a daily basis. I had been telling myself it was for inspiration as I have gone from trying to be a working professional to retired or semi-retired photojournalist.
In my foray for inspiration this morning, I went to the blog burn (www.burnmagazine.org) that is run by Magnum photojournalist David Alan Harvey and is usually the first one I look at. For those that don’t know the name, trust me, at some point in time you have been amazed by one of his images.

In his latest blog entry, "Summer of 13", Harvey asks the question of his readers/viewers, “how do you set yourself free?”

As I make my shift to retirement, the question struck me as something I really need to address.

For twenty years, I photographed hoping that one day I could do photography as a professional, i.e., someone who made his living just with photography. When my wife and I decided to give up our day jobs and strike out to the Florida beaches, I hung out my shingle and began a 10-year odyssey as a professional photographer. Initially, I did portraits of real estate agents, got gigs with local resorts, etc.

But one day I walked into the offices of The Walton Sun and walked out as a new freelancer for this little free weekly newspaper. I progressed from freelancer to contract photographer and, finally, was hired as the first (and what would be only) fulltime staff photographer of the Sun. But, in 2008, as the recession of 2007 continue to take its toll, I had to look around for work as I could see the layoffs beginning at the paper and that the commercial work was also drying up. In the end, I took a fulltime job in a previous career field which paid the bills and provided benefits. But that job provided nothing fulfilling to the soul. I continued to shoot the local events like I had for the paper but there was little to zero chance of publication.

Then, four years later, that company started layoffs as a result of contract cancellations. Nearing 65 and retirement looming on the horizon, my wife and I decided it was time to leave the beach and get closer to family.

Today we are settling in to our new community and I am trying to figure out “what do I do now?”

Then, Harvey ask the question. And it struck me that I did not need to figure out what to do now, I just needed to do it.

Like the lady in one of the retirement planning commercials says, “I don’t know how much money I need to retire but I know how much I will have.” That pretty much sums up where I am today.

So, how do I set myself free to do my photography the way I want. When I first moved back close to the kids, I thought I would still want to work. And I wanted to work again as a photographer. I joined a local photography club hoping to get some contacts. But that has proven fruitless as my background and desires are so vastly different from the other club members.

So, again, how do I set myself free?

Thinking on this question, I put myself into the frame of mind that I remember I was in when I was most happiest photographing. The place doesn’t really matter. The equipment doesn’t really matter. BUT the subject matter does. Just capturing life as it happens is how the images that I am most happy with occur.

The first image I remember taking that I was happy with was a photo of my wife. She was around 30 years old with long, flowing blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. But the image was taken with black&white film (Kodak Tri-X which I still shoot today in my dad's old rangefinder) in my very first SLR, an Olympus OM-10 with a simple 1,8/50mm lens.





We were just horsing around. She was playing with my glasses (I had only begun recently to wear glasses) and I snapped several images. The light was simple and not set up. It just was what it was. But that image has stuck with me all these years and I am still amazed at her beauty both then and now.

Some images were ones that were shot when freelancing for the local newspaper. Some of the photographs went on to be published. Several also won awards in the various Florida press associations’ yearly contests. The image below took first place in the Spot News category in 2005.




But many images, that I on occasion recall, were never published. But they have stuck with me. Sometimes I have a reason. Sometimes not. Quite often it is because of the person in the image but sometimes the image just triggers an emotion. This image of the circus big top, for example.
For someone who grew up in the '50s and '60s, it conjures up the old thoughts of travel around the States (if not the world). Every week in a new city and new experiences.
So, how do I free myself? Quit worrying about getting paying gigs and just enjoy the act of photography again. If paying gigs come, fine. If not, that is fine too. I would like to display some of the photographs I have taken over 35-plus years somewhere. (Again, if someone wants to buy one, fine. If not, hopefully they will enjoy the experience of viewing the photograph and coming to their own conclusions about it.)

Up until now, for the last 15 years, it has all been “how can I make money with my photography?” It is time to let that go. At my age in a new location, it is just not any fun to try to market myself.
It is just time to have fun.
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Failure to communicate

This past Friday I tagged along with my wife to her writers' club open mike night in Adamson Square. I took along both the X-E1 with the 1,4/35mm and the X100S but should have left one or the other in the car (I address this later in this post.).
What I want to discuss here is my failure to really develop a street photo opportunity that presented itself to me.
After roaming around and not really "seeing" something to take a shot of, I was over listening the the writers' club participants. I was watching a guy with his dog talking on his cell when a gentleman entered my field of view dragging along a vacuum cleaner.
As he reached the center of the frame, I pushed the shutter and got both men in the shot. I took several more shots but nothing really seemed to say "I got it!"
I began thinking about this opportunity while lying in bed awake around 3 AM. I really did not explore the opportunity which was presented to me.
I did not move to a different location to get a better angle. I did not do ANYTHING!
As I tried to think it through this morning, I began to realize that, for the first time in a long time, I was "seeing" something but then I did not try to develop it.
But that is not the only thing I discovered from the Friday night adventure.
As someone who was use to carrying two cameras, I have started carrying the X-E1 and X100S because I thought I "needed" to have different focal lengths. Back in my newspaper days, that was a necessity! And, when I am shooting for a client, I need to have that capability available.
But, in most cases today, I am shooting for a different purpose. No longer do I need to have a feature shot available for Saturday's front page. What I am noticing now is that having two cameras with different focal lengths is actually a hindrance to my shooting "eye."
I had gotten used to having just one camera and one lens. For me, it is both challenging and exhilarating. I have discovered what many already know. The 1C1L can be a way to go.
Rather than needing to have everything and the kitchen sink, I find that minimizing my gear is actually maximizing my keepers.
Now, for the shoot I am doing tonight of the theater production by a local non-profit, I will still need both bodies and my complement of lenses (which now is only TWO!).
But, for most of the work (actually, it is all play!) I want to accomplish, one or the other will do.
Here is the one shot that I got of the two men previously mentioned. This is the only one that seems to have enough in the frame to maybe get people to study the image and come to their own conclusions.




And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Australian Shark

I have never considered myself to be a commercial photographer. I have also never thought of myself as portrait or wedding photographer.
BUT I have had the occasion to be the primary photographer for a high profile commercial shoot. Back in 2003-2004, I had the opportunity to do an advertising shoot of pro golfer Greg Norman at the Wild Heron golfing community on Lake Powell in the Florida Panhandle designed by Medallist Corporation. Not only was it good money but, all things considered, it was a very easy and fun shoot.
Greg was courteous, professional, and really enjoyable to be around. We had three locations to shoot at and had to be done by noon in order for him to prepare for a media event.
As luck would have it, the weather was perfect. It was springtime in the Florida Panhandle which brings beautiful water, squeaky white sand, and mild temperatures. We started early that morning to make use of the morning light at the gulfside pool of the resort. I would give Greg a suggestion for where to be and he would just hit the spot. Not only was he very comfortable in front of a camera but he seemed to know intuitively the best way to stand to make use of the light. And, being a mainly available light shooter, it made my part of the shoot almost point and shoot. The next two locations were indoors but, having scoped out the venues with the art director of the shoot for Wild Heron, I knew that the available light would be perfect for the spots that had been chosen.
This shot was in the final location inside one of the condos at the resort. Greg just was so comfortable in front of the camera that, from the beginning, my concerns over dealing with such a high profile celebrity vanished immediately.
While this kind of photography is not really up my alley and is not something I would want to do 100% of the time, it was fun.
After the shoot was done, I put on my newspaper hat as I was also covering the event for the local weekly that I was a contract photographer with. Even more fun? My wife, who was working full-time for the same weekly was at the press conference that was held. As usual, the tv reporters were firing questions right and left. When it came to the final question, all hands went up except my wife's. She had not been able to get a word in edgewise. It was then that Greg pointed at her and asked if she had a question for him. She did ask the question but the main thing she remembers is looking into those crystal blue eyes of the Shark!!


And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Just Showing

Thought I would have some fun with today's entry. It pretty much defines my way of seeing and shooting. I am not usually someone who "creates" an image but rather I seek images. Since I am no longer working for a newspaper, I am now returning to my original roots. This is probably how most of us started out in this venture whether as a hobby or as a way of making money. For me, I did both. Started with images of my family as most of us do and got caught up in the passion of documenting life around us. Some of us went down other paths to a more controlled shooting style doing portraits & weddings or into the commercial world. Others, like myself, just enjoyed finding images, looking for the right view of the image, and taking the shot.
This image was shot last year while my wife was in a hair salon getting a trim. As usual, I was just roaming around the shopping area known as Pier Park in Panama City Beach. I spotted this guy with a great Harley-Davidson shop t-shirt from Milwaukee sitting on a wall. Underneath him were tiles that (for a charge of course) kids could paint however they wanted. In the background was a line of V-Twins (it was Thunder Beach if I remember correctly) and I thought the shot worked.
In looking at it today for the first time since going through my edit of the shots from that day, I had a title pop to mind that I think really finished the image. We always think of plumbers (no offense, plumbers) and what is showing as they gyrate under a sink to fix a leak but it can happen to anyone.
So here is "Just Showing" and I am not talking about motorcycles!!


Hope this brightens your day and makes you chuckle. Just remember, this could be you!!!

And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Learning to "see"

I have mentioned several times in my posts about being able to "see" in the focal lengths I am restricting myself to. I find there is no way better to teach myself this than to just keep on shooting. In addition to just keeping on shooting, I study other people's images both on flickr and individual websites and look at some of the great early photojournalists like Cartier-Breeson, Capa, and the like.
Earlier this week, I got a chance to challenge myself with this effort by doing a little pro-bono work for a local non-profit that is putting on a theater production to raise money for their mission. I took both the X100S and the X-E1 w/35mm. I shot almost the same number of images with each camera which surprised me a little bit. I thought I would favor the longer focal length (yeah, I know, it ain't much difference between the two) but that was really not the case.
I have actually enjoyed shooting with the single focal length of the X100S and the image quality, IMO, is excellent. I am not a  pixel peeper so my judgment is probably suspect. I shot both cameras at ISO3200 with various apertures. I usually shoot in aperture preferred mode and that is what I did here. I did use my lightmeter to check the lighting when I arrived but, even in the wings. I saw that I could handhold without a problem.
The two images here were taken less than a minute apart and from about the same distance. I was probably a little closer with the X-E1 but not much. As I said the IQ of the X100S is excellent and the X-E1 is on par with it for my work and enjoyment.
But I really don't know which composition I like better. I like the tighter shot from the X-E1 in some ways better than the X100S's shot. However, the extra elements in the X100S composition add to the story-telling ability of the wider image. I probably will crop the wider image to bring the actress position slightly right for a rule of thirds composition but not enough to lose the set/curtain ropes on the right.
In the end, this was a good exercise and I really do like both images. Next week, I have a couple of lens adapters arriving and will be trying out my one remaining Nikkor lens - a 1,8/85mm AF-D for a little longer focal length.

Here is the X-E1 shot:

and the X-100S shot:

Any preferences?


And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Available light - ????

"Avoid making a commotion, just as you wouldn’t stir up the water before fishing. Don’t use a flash out of respect for the natural lighting, even when there isn’t any. If these rules aren’t followed, the photographer becomes unbearably obtrusive." - Henri Cartier-Bresson - "American Photo", September/October 1997, page: 76

I am really interested in doing things a little different these days. For most of my "career", I have needed to please others more than myself. Now that I am no longer employed as a newspaper staffer, I still want to show what Will Durant called "life on the banks." That is the reason I sold all my DSLR equipment and went mirrorless. Instead of looking like a "pro", which these days seems to offend many people, I look like John Q. Public out on a lark. In some ways, the new gear performs better than my DSLRs did. And the new gear is better suited for a different type of photography. It is getting me to slow down. I find I am doing more looking for an image instead of quickly shooting so I can head to the next assignment.
To that end, the comment by Cartier-Bresson above states what to me is an obvious way of photographing in a documentary style. I have never liked using a flash and only used them when it was more of a planned event like portraits, commercial work, etc. For all my sports and concert work I never thought of using a flash. I always worked with the available light so that I could move about almost unseen. 
Working this way helps me avoid distracting flashes that would disturb a performer at a festival or an athlete during a sporting event. I worked very hard to keep my presence unnoticeable which has allowed me to be in places that most viewers would not or could not be and provide a view that they cannot see. Or capture a moment between two people that a flash would disturb.

Like between a mother and her daughter at ballet class:



Or a young violinist as he prepares in a dressing room:



Or be onstage during a jazz festival within inches of a drummer:



Or squeeze off a shot in a crowded subway car on the London Tube:



Or be up close and personal without disturbing a volleyball player as she goes for the dig:



This method of shooting is what works for me. But everyone sees differently and works differently. Not better or worse just different. With my new cameras and their expanded ISO range continuing to work this way will not be a problem. Tonight (August 8) I am shooting a theater production pro-bono for a local non-profit. It will be my first foray with the new gear. Looking forward to a new and exciting experience!

And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, August 5, 2013

Having multiple focal lengths can be hazardous to your "eye"

Shooting at a single focal length can be a trying exercise. While I am not going to shoot strictly 35mm focal length for the rest of my life, it is about all I have right now. 

But this past weekend I grabbed my dad's old Yashica Electro35 GS to take along with me for a morning of shooting. The Yashica, for those that don't know, is a fixed 45mm lens rangefinder. Looking very similar to my new X100S, I thought it would be fun to take along so I have a little more focal length.

Instead I found it to be disconcerting. Every time I wanted to take a shot, I would be asking myself which camera should I use. Before when I carried two cameras, each with a different zoom lens, I would quickly make a decision on which camera to use. Did I need to shoot long or wide? It was a simple decision based on what I was presented with. Maybe it was because the two prime lenses were so close to one another in focal length. Or maybe having shot with mainly the X100S for the last two months I just preferred the 35mm focal length it provided. I do know I am starting to see different images now. Not better or worse, just different.

For anyone who has seen my flickr stream (http://www.flickr.com/photos/richard-owen/) or my website (http://www.richard-owen.com), you know this is somewhat of a major accomplishment for me. I used to shoot a fair amount of telephoto images as I believed that was the only way to catch people candidly. But I always told myself that I had a "stealth" mode that allowed me to be in close, shoot wide, and not interfere in the event playing out in front of me. Sometimes that was true but not always.

This shot is from the local farmers' market with the new Fuji.. It is not anywhere on the scale of what I shot when in London or the Cotswolds. Not as many shoppers and definitely not as many vendors. But, for once, I think this shot works on some level. At least for me it does. I took two shots of this guy as he walked toward me. The first one he is further away and it just doesn't work for me. And, even though I am not the proverbial "fly on the wall" here because he was looking at me, the composition just felt better. And, surprisingly, his looking directly at me works for me here as well.


And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Saturday, August 3, 2013

First Day of School

Today I was rummaging through some older images for maybe using on my revised website when I ran across an image from over 10 years ago that really has stuck with me. I was covering the first day of school at an elementary school. Of course, for many of the youngsters, it was really their FIRST day of school ever. I saw kids hanging on to moms and dads as well as those that were excited to be in school. As always, I was on deadline and that means looking quickly, finding the shot, capturing it, and moving on to the next one. As a result, I did not get the chance to really "see" an image. Such is the case here. As I roamed through the school, kids and parents coming in, parents leaving, kids in a new environment, I started looking for the right combination of people. This image caught my eye due to the posture of the little girl (obviously in distress at being left alone in a new place) and her teacher looking to calm her anxiety. I snapped the picture, took another quick look around the classroom, and moved on.

A few hours later I am back at the office downloading images from the morning shoot. When I brought up this image I suddenly noticed a key part of this image that I had missed while shooting - a tear on the little girl's face! A little correction for exposure and color due to the sunlight and fluorescent light mix and I had a front page photo for that week's edition.

But fast forward to today and my change in gear. That shot was taken with an Nikon F100 and 80-200mm f2.8 zoom. Now that my equipment is comprised of a 35mm and 50mm lenses, how do I get this shot without interfering in the action? That is something I am mulling over as I continue my conversion to a different shooting style. To get something intimate like this requires some thought on my part as to how I accomplish still being the "fly on the wall" that I have done in the past. I would love to hear others' thoughts on this and, if you have already done it, can you think of anything specific that worked for you?

Well, I hope you enjoy the image. It is what I consider one of my better journalistic shots in my short career as a newspaper photojournalist.



And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A different approach

Conventional wisdom says the best portrait lens is something around 85mm (on a 35mm camera) but, like all rules, this one is meant to be broken. Shortly after I started working for a newspaper in northwest Florida, I also had several opportunities to assist a local fashion photographer named Michael Belk. I had first met Michael through one of his workshops and he gave me the opportunity to work with him on several occasions. While I got to assist on some of his fashion gigs, I also helped him with a few portrait sessions. Michael was using medium format equipment for his fashion work but for the intimate family portrait sessions he usually brought out a Leica rangefinder as his weapon of choice. I really don't remember what focal length lens he used but it was probably either a 50mm or 35mm. This allowed Michael to not only be a little closer but to add some of the surroundings into his portraits. Toss in the fact that Michael has this welcoming personality that relaxes just about the most jaded person in the world. I saw him work with children as well as adults and his ability to capture the essence of a person was amazing. No pretense for this guy. He brought out the true personality of his subjects.
It is that approach that I see I will need to take in my shooting from now on. With the change in my equipment, I can no longer stand at a distance and zooooooom in on someone. I have to get up close and personal on occasion to get the shot. This shot I chose for this entry is one of my first attempts to get a decent portrait using my new Fuji. Since it has only a 35mm fixed focal length, the need to be a little closer was necessary. For this portrait, I was fortunate. The subject is one of my granddaughters. Since there is a relationship already, it is easier for me to close the distance. And easier for her to relax and drop any pretensions. I really like this image of Sami and I hope to get many more of her and the rest of my grandchildren on my X100S journey.


And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....