I wonder how many times I have said that over the years, to people around me and even here in writing? And how many times I have been asked to shoot portraits or events? And its true, I do not make a point of photographing people or their events. At least not in the portraiture sense. But every image in this post has at least one person in it.
In spite of my leanings, I do think it is sometimes desirable to purposely place people in a photo, and sometimes, to make them, if not the subject, at least a subject of the photograph. These days I actually seek people out
I have long understood that including people in images has a certain inevitability. People are often unavoidably around the scenes that I photograph. In that case, sometimes a little patience will reward the wait with a clear moment (or longer). I have also noted here previously, that with the ability to digitally “retouch” photographs these days, I will at times try to shoot when the “people-placement” is such that I know I can remove it from the final image. But other times, when I know they are an inevitable part of the image, I will try to place them in such a way as they give context, scale, or both.
When I am out shooting, I shoot scenes that interest me and they often involve people doing things. It may be their jobs. It may be as an observer or participant. But in each case, “people” are an important part of the photograph.
In spite of my leanings, I do think it is sometimes desirable to purposely place people in a photo, and sometimes, to make them, if not the subject, at least asubject of the photograph. These days I actually seek people out in the appropriate instance.
There are some really, really good people photographers out there. What they tell me is that they are very upfront about it. They often (if not always) approach their subjects and make their intentions and friendliness known. They usually will offer the subject a print. And they shoot with smaller equipment and lenses, which makes the whole experience less imposing to the subjects.
Obviously, I have not mastered that art. -:)
Over the years I have actually made a number of images with the thought of selling or using them as illustrations for advertising or other content. But as you can see I am not generally approaching my subjects. Fortunately, they are usually not recognizable, and are in public places. In the uncommon event where I have made an image of a recognizable face, I know it would be advisable to approach the subject and obtain their permission to use it. I know that there are sometimes copyright issues and these days, almost always privacy issues that need to be addressed. I also am aware that in some situations, an individual has an economic interest in their own image. I know many pros carry releases with them.
I don’t, and in spite of the language barrier, I probably should have approached the gentleman in the opening image, made in an outdoor cafe in Nice, France. But in that instance, my shot was not made for any intention of stock, advertising or other commercial use. It was for me. It reminds me of many things, including the quiet, slow pace of some of these locations, and the need to take some time for yourself occasionally.
As I contemplated this post, I was curious about the percentage of images I have made over the years that involve people as at least an indirect subject. I was surprised.
I have not yet become comfortable in most cases with approaching people. Therefore my images tend to be candid or incidental. But I had quite a few. They probably often show my timid approach to people, but I curated a few of them just the same.
(Left-Clicking on an image opens it in a new window, bigger and with better resolution)
Here is the final (finally) post on the British Isles Cruise – and not a minute (er, week) too soon. In just a couple weeks we are off again to another Mediterranean adventure, this time in Spain and along Italy”s northeast coast. So, more to come in the not too distant future. In the meantime, this one is a couple days late. We have just begun a major renovation project in our Florida home, and the main part of the house will be – at times – inaccessible, making my computer difficult to reach. Stay tuned …..
Amsterdam was our port of departure from the ship, and so we had to disembark, and get our luggage to our motel near the airport for our flight out the next morning. We were all pretty tired and we purposely had not made any plan for tours that day. Instead, we went down to the center city and walked around. Amsterdam has always kind of been known as the “anything goes” city, and we at least had to stroll down the “Red Light” district, and walk around to see the marijuana dispensaries. It is a pretty wild scene. And we were there during the day. I can only imagine how it ramps up after dark. In that part of the city, you can smoke in any of the bars, and there are shops everywhere, so that the smell of marijuana smoke was pretty obvious, as we walked though that part of the city. As you can see, even though we have now “legalized” canabis in many of the states here in the U.S., we have a lot of “catching up” to do to get even close to the marketing now done in Amsterdam.
In spite of all the craziness, most of the city is comprized of things you would expect to see in many other European cities. Along with Bruges, Amsterdam is considered part of the “Venice” of the north. Situated along the eastern shore of a peninsula which separates the North Sea from a large, protected inlet (Markermeer and Ijsselmeer – “meer” translates roughly from Dutch as “broad” or “large” lake), eventually feeding a large canal that ultimately crosses the entire peninsula and empties into the North Sea (at the very northeastern end of the English Channel). This allow for an impressive canal system within the city, and it is known for its Dutch Architecture lined canals. The buildings all have “false front” gables, and in general, each individual gable has its own characteer, distinguishing it from the adjoining buildings.
There are also some rather grand buildings in the main downtown area of Amsterdam, as well as a couple very striking museums and other municipal buildings, replete with flowers and fountains one might expect in Amsterdam.
Like most larger cities, there are also some quiet back streets that border the busier areas, with local bars, and restaurants.
One thing that kind of stood out to me what how much less ostentatious most residents are with their modes of transportation. Though we saw alot of this throughout Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, the bicycle was an extremely popular mode of transportation. This was more prevalent in Amsterdam than in the other places.
I also noticed that Amsterdam seems to have a firm commitment to alternative energy sources. There were charging stations for electric vehicles available right in the downtown area.
Amsterdam appears to be a significant hub for flights and connections throughout Europe, and I suspect we will be their again – perhaps for a longer period of time. I will Look forward to that, based on our very short time there.
Ray Laskowitz’s comment on my recent post inspired me to think (and write) about this. His “been there, done that,” observation is insightful (as always).
In the 1980’s and most of the ‘90’s, photography was a very different world. There were – seemingly – two different photographer groups out there: The serious (including pro) shooters with “sophisticated” equipment, training and experience, and “point & shoot” camera-toting tourists (not meant in a pejorative sense).
We used film. The point & shooters used color negative film and had prints made at the local drugstore. The serious shooters used a variety, including black and white, and color slides. Most of us had our developing done by either a local or mail-order photo processor. The serious among us worked hard for our images, scouting and studying locations and other photographs we saw. But there weren’t very many of us, and except for the very most popular sites, it was pretty normal to either have it to yourself or only be sharing with one or two other shooters on any given day.
Differing accounts put the number of “smartphones” in the world in use at between 2.5 and 3 billion. Billion!
And then came digital (of course, like all short writings, this is a bit of an oversimplification. But in general, I think these are valid observations). I have been as enthusiastic a cheerleader as anyone about the “digital photography revolution.” It has certainly made making images and showing them more convenient for me. And the “digital darkroom” has opened doors for me that I either couldn’t have opened, or at least not very easily.
But technology, we continue to learn, often comes at a cost. Differing accounts put the number of “smartphones” in the world in use at between 2.5 and 3 billion. Billion.
Compare that with about 5 million in 2000 (my research may be a bit questionable. I had a hard time finding this information, but this was from a site that gave numbers of shipments of digital still cameras during the years 1999- 2018. Presumably, this would include DSLR cameras).
Incorporate 3 billion smartphone users (they all have cameras, and so virtually all smartphone users have now replaced the “point & shooters” noted earlier), with the combustive growth of digital media and you have a true explosion of the conditions I mentioned in the early paragraphs of this blog. As I noted in the last blog, it is difficult for me to illustrate the difference between a small crowd of shooters in 2013 and absolute mob scene we encountered in 2017.
So what do we, as photographers, do now? I am as much a fan of the “postcard” iconic image as the next guy. Indeed, in an earlier phase of my photographic quest, I sought primarily those images. Even though somebody had already done it, I wanted to have “my own.” No apology for that.
However, there are some palpable certainties that come with the “new age” of digital and smartphones. One is that the opportunities to make these “postcard” images have gotten much, much more difficult. You will have to plan to be present at odd times (which can be difficult for a traveler that is not staying in a destination). You may have to fight the crowds, and thus, change the physical perspective of your images.
And in the end, Ray is right. We need to get away from the crowds and the icons; away from the “tripod holes” already made by others. I have known it for some time, and my own shooting has (glacially, I admit) evolved in that direction. These days, I look for my own images of the place (those are much more, “my own” than a copy of the postcard shot). And many times those images are away from the crowds, or at the edges of the crowds. My best imagery seems to come when I can spend some time in a location and get out very early or be out late, when the tourists are in bed or in the bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, because of our chosen method of travel, which often puts us into places during mid-day. Even so, I have found images when I have been looking for them.
Recently, I went through a review and update of my LightCentric Photography photo website. As I was systematically checking captioning information (among other things), a couple of the images made me pause and reflect on their circumstances as involving a particularly memorable moment of for whatever reason, just being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it was planned. Sometimes it was just serendipity.
This doesn’t mean there haven’t been other times and images. There have been too many photographic memories to cover, including trips to New Mexico, Alaska, New England, California, and around the world.
In some ways, the Porcupine Mountains image is my most memorable photo. Taken back in the days of film, I made this photograph on my very first “dedicated photography trip.” I spent a long weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for the first time since my childhood. The trip was planned with much anticipation of fall color imagery. For the most part, even though I was there during the first week in October, I was still fairly early for foliage, and was largely disappointed in that aspect of the trip. The trip motivated many more similar excursions to the U.P., mostly in the fall. I arrived at “The Escarpment,” in the Porcupine Mountains late on a Saturday afternoon. From the Escarpment, you can view the Lake of The Clouds, which is often photographed – especially during peak foliage. Conditions were not what I had hoped for. It was cloudy, with a 40 plus mph wind. I had seen images of Lake of The Clouds, and that was my goal for this part of the trip. Foliage conditions were just starting, and I just did not see the image I had visualized. To make matters worse, the forecast called for worsening conditions, with all-out rain by morning. So I took a number of images, using a much faster shutter speed and lower aperture combination than I normally would have, bracing the tripod against the wind buffets with my own weight (seemingly counterproductive). Unlike these days, you could not see a representation of the result on the back of the camera. I would wait until I returned home, and the photographic processor completed developing my slides. I didn’t expect much from this location. But on the light table, this one image jumped out at me. It is perhaps the only “keeper” from that take. As I viewed it, I realized that the contrast between the lingering greens, the precocious reds, and the developing oranges and yellows, was actually more visually interesting – indeed satisfying – than some of those images that I had seen that were a complete wash of fall color. There is a photographer’s saying: “F8 and be there.” I don’t think this was F8, but I was there, and this is what I found. The image here, is prepped for printing, and may look a bit saturated. But I did not touch the saturation sliders in Photoshop. Instead, I used an old technique (surpassed for most of us by plugins such as NIK Viveza 2), converting the scanned image to LAB color space and making adjustments to the A and B curves. This image has continued to be my best selling photo. It hangs in the main conference room of my law firm’s offices, and draws many comments.
In 2006, after much bragging to my best buddy, Rich Pomeroy, about the “best fall foliage in the world, bar none,” he called my bluff and we took a week long trip to Vermont. We had take many business trips together before, but this was our first “together” photography adventure. I am delighted to say that we have made numerous other photo trips, and will make many more in future years. But this one turned out to be kind of a bust. We went during the last part of September and very early October. All during the week, we wished we had waited a week, as the foliage was again in very early (almost non-existent) stages. We worked hard to find some foliage and though we had a lot of fun and made some memorable images, it wasn’t what we had anticipated. Determined to “find” those colors I remembered from my youth in the 1970’s in Vermont, I returned – alone this time – in 1997, a week later. During that trip, I spend a couple nights in central Vermont, driving along it famed Route 100. Mother Nature can be fickle, and the colors were – once again – not as nice as I had hoped (this time a bit past peak in many places). One morning, I was headed for a waterfall that has turned out to be (in my opinion) unremarkable; Moss Glen Falls in Granville. But on my way, I got waylaid by a vision: some color off in the distance of a scenic turnout. The turnout turned out (see what I did there 🙂 ) to be a nice series of drops in the Mad River. The Mad River is really just a stream or creek that is not really navigable. It is also the namesake of “Mad River Canoes,” originally built by hand in Waitsfield, where this very same stream wandered through his back yard. A drizzly rain was falling, but I donned my wading boots and spent 2 1/2 hours shooting there. The image here was actually on a return trip in 2010, when I brought Rich back to “prove” my assertions about Vermont foliage 🙂 . That morning was a magical time. I was all alone with the subject, which remains a really photogenic series of waterfalls.
In 2009, Rich and I made another memorable photo trip; this time to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a quaint little touristy town with just enough non-photographic things to keep our spouses entertained (well, for about a day that is – but we were there for a week 🙂 ). Acadia is probably one of the most photographed National Parks. There a numerous books about the Park Loop Road, and all the different photographic venues. Otter Cliffs is one, but it is most often viewed more distantly, from another cliff to the north. From the vantage point, you cannot even see this cobblestone beach. I had a friend who strongly recommended that I “work” to find this spot, which is a cobblestone beach that is not well documented or marked (at least, it wasn’t in 2009). The directions in the books don’t really reveal it, but with some perseverance, and some insight from him, we did find it. We visited it for 3 successive mornings in the pre-dawn, before we got this one. There is really nothing like being in a location like this, literally alone, and watching the sunrise and the morning develop. It was a location worth “working” for.
Vermont has a special place in my heart. Readers here know I make period trips to Vermont to photograph; usually during the vaunted fall foliage season. I wrote my first eBook on this very topic. As I did my homework, planning each trip, researching and hobnobbing with members of the Scenes of Vermont forum, I “met” two of my wonderful friends, both of whom also happen to be talented photographers and writers. Al Utzig and I carried on a e-mail correspondence for several years before I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person. We were good friends by that time and the face-to-face didn’t change that (for me at least – I’ll let Al be the judge of it 🙂 ). Carol Smith, who many of you know as my co-author for the current edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” was a frequent poster on the Scenes forums and we were all soon to learn, an extremely knowledgeable and observant resource for wannabe Vermont photographers. She was of immeasurable help to me on the first edition and it was a logical progression for her to co-write a second edition which contains much more information, primarily from Carol. In the process we also became good “online” friends. In 2010, Rich and I returned to Vermont. I was there for a week, but Rich was only able to join me on the southern part of the trip for about 3 days. This trip began with a group of us (particularly Al, Carol and me) meeting at Carol’s Barton house in anticipation of a next-day, early morning “tour,” led by Carol. This was my first face-to-face meeting with Carol, and to my surprise, she still loves me :-). We started at Bean Pond along the US 5 highway, for a foggy sunrise over the pond. The time and images were magical, but while Al and I gushed, Carol promised that the best was yet to come. And boy, was she right. The Burton Hill Road image is by far my personal favorite Vermont image, and perhaps my most “successful.” After others had left, Carol and her very patient husband, guided me around several other areas, including the Craftsbury Common image that appears on the cover of the Vermont eBook. But that morning is one of the most memorable times of any photographic trip. And I got to enjoy it with two of my very favorite friends.
Some years were big travel years for me. Others not so much. 2010 was one of those big years. In addition to another trip to Vermont, my wife, son and I went on our first cruise; the Inside Passage from Vancouver, B.C., to Whittier, Alaska. It introduced us to cruising (which to my surprise, I really liked), which has opened travel doors to us throughout the world. There were hundreds of images taken on that trip to Alaska, with some pretty great photographic opportunities. But the most memorable image of that trip came as a complete surprise to me. We were signed up for a “deadliest catch” look-alike excursion (sans the cold and ice and heavy oceans). When we came ashore, one of the crew who met us saw my “big camera” and said “I see you came prepared. We are going to get some eagle photos for you today.” Right. He was a tour guide. He certainly wasn’t going to promise me crappy photos. 🙂 I think we were scheduled to be out for 3 1/ or 4 hours, during which they talked about the history of these fishing boats (the boat was an actual boat used in the Bering Sea, just like the ones on the “Deadliest Catch” series, which had been shipwrecked, and then salvaged and retro-fitted with observation seating). All very interesting, but no “knock your socks off” eagle photos. We saw some, but they were a long way in the distance. At the end of the cruise, they announced that they had a special treat for us, and took us by an uninhabited island, which was in native waters (by U.S. treaty) and therefore not subject to U.S. laws. As I looked, I saw a solitary eagle perched in dead tree. O.k. Then I suddenly heard “plop.” “Plop, plop.” The crew was up in the flybridge tossing bait into the water. The skies next to our boat suddenly turned into what I can only describe as a air to air dogfight as about 30 eagles all appeared, diving and often fighting for the food. I really wasn’t prepared and it all happened in about a 5 – 10 minute sequence. But in spite of my ill-preparedness, I was able to get several good shots. This one is my favorite. I doubt that I will ever get an opportunity to photograph eagles in flight from that close a position again. As our first cruise, it was hard to have it come to an end, with so many amazing and new experiences. But it did. It marked the end of a great trip – and the beginning of many more.
In 2011, instead of a fall foliage trip, my wife and I opted to spend a week in California during the first week in October. My daughter lives in San Francisco, so we used that as a staging point, with an overnight excursion to Napa for some wine tasting. Lots of memories from that trip. My daughter’s place at the time was in downtown, south of Market Street (SOMA). She was just two blocks south of Market and just a few blocks west of the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero and the eastern part of San Francisco bay. I was up early and somewhere on the street each morning by sunrise or earlier (the 3 hour time differential was a positive, making it easy for me to wake up and roust early). What I really noticed was the relative stillness, just before the world “wakes up.” I made numerous images of the Bay Bridge, which is a favorite subject of mine (I prefer these images to those I have made of the more famous Golden Gate). But this one, I think, best illustrates that early morning pre-dawn calm and stillness.
That trip had other memories. We made friends with a couple of the winery owners, and in later years would travel with one of them, to the Caribbean and to Ireland, as well as returning to the vineyard when back in California. But the unexpected and incredible opportunity of shooting the air show put on by – mostly – the U.S. Navy, during its San Francisco “Fleet Week,” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We shot from the ground for over an hour as the planes flew low over us. I worked hard to capture a “bloom” from the jet fighters as they broke the sound barrier. Because sound and light do not travel at the same speed, it was touch to anticipate. I got just one. But am pretty pleased with it.
Returning to California, Rich and I were able to sneak in a quick 3-day trip to West Virginia’s Babcock State Park, to photograph the often photographed Grist Mill in fall foliage. While we probably missed the peak near the mill, we were able to find peak foliage around Boley Lake in the park. What made this trip special was my first opportunity to meet one of my photographic mentors and a great inspiration to me, James Moore. Jim is an uber-talented nature photographer with many sales and publications; primarily in and around West Virginia. We had become on-line friends a year or two before, and he had a group he was guiding there photographing earlier in the week. Jim was still there when we arrived, but left early the next morning. We had a nice time to chat and he gave us some great insight about when and where to shoot in the park. In 2012, Jim did me the great honor of asking me to act as a guide for one of his photography workshops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jim had heard a lot about it but had never visited there. We spent a great week, learning, shooting, and watching the foliage develop from pre-peak to full peak conditions. Jim had some health problems later in life and sadly those of us who knew and admired him have lost touch. For the West Virginia image here, my model was Jim, and the New River Gorge lookout was one of his favorite spots in the park.
2012, marked yet another photography trip with my buddy, Rich (and spouses). We joke a lot because I am a “planner” when it comes to these trips. I have usually figured out what I want to shoot, how to get there, how long it will take, and what time of day to be on site. For the most part, Rich is happy to let me do that, and quite often comes home with the better image. 🙂 A couple years before, Rich had attended a photography workshop in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park. We both wanted to go again. This time I showed up and Rich was the guide. What a fun and memorable week with many great photo opportunities. As an old school photographer (or maybe just an old photographer), when it comes to scenic shots, I think in terms of a print. What we all want to bring back is a “wall-hanger.” Over the years I have made, printed and framed a number of my images. None has been better that this image of Oxbow Bend. We arrived here (I think the second time) in the pre-dawn hours and there was frost on everything. As the sun rose, the warmer water temps created a wonderful low fog over the bend in the river. May some white cotton-candy clouds would have enhanced this, but it was a great morning and I knew walking away from this shoot that this would be a wall-hanger.
2013 was a huge year for us. My wife came from a military family, so she had done some limited world travel as a young person. But in our adult lives, we had not traveled out of the U.S. except for a couple trips to the Caribbean, and Canada (which really doesn’t seem like it counts 🙂 ). We decided to kick our cruising up a notch, and booked a Mediterranean Cruise. In many ways, it may have been the most memorable of all of our cruises. It was our third cruise on the Princess Lines, and we were booked on their newest, and best ship. We were excited to see the world over the next two weeks, disembarking from Venice and ending in Barcelona. The cruise ship decided it wouldn’t cooperate, and our cruise was cut short. There was, however, a happy ending to that.
As is our custom, we planned to spend 3-4 days in our originating port city before boarding the cruise ship. We walked around Venice for 3 days and boarded the ship thankful for an immediate “day at sea,” exhausted. But what I can say about Venice is that it is wall-to-wall “eye-candy” for the photographer. I have hundreds of Venice images, but the two shown here represent moments that separate themselves from the others. The Gondolier was a case of right time, right place. I was looking for shots, and heard them coming. I found this setup and was blessed with wonderful early morning sunlight. The covered gondolas is not original on my part. I had seen at least one other photographer do this. What it would need was very early light in order to make an exposure long enough to capture the motion of the rocking gondolas. This meant either very early morning, or evening. I chose morning because there would be less people, and less activity on the Grand Canal, producing just some gentle rocking. I use this image on my Facebook LightCentric Photography Page Cover.
In 2014, we returned again to San Francisco for several days. I made more trips to the Bay Bridge. I also walked to the San Francisco Giants ball stadium. My daughter took us to Lands End, to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, and to Jones Beach. But what I remember the most is walking from our SOMA location, all the way across town and uphill to Lombard Street (the famous s-curved, brick-paved, switchback street that is a “must photograph” when you visit). I made the usual images (except for the nighttime shot with the streaky headlights). Then I looked for something else to shoot. A unique perspective that possibly nobody else had ever done. I think I might have been successful.
In 2016, I made a last minute trip to join my buddy, Rich, who was in Newport, Rhode Island for business. I flew in on Thursday evening and we spent two days shooting. Friday morning, I was on my own and walked around the downtown area and the wharfs, making lots of photos of boats, buildings, etc. Everything was a more or less nautical theme. That evening we went to shoot a lighthouse that Rich had found earlier in the week (Castle Hill Light). This was a photogenic lighthouse, and as we often do, we arrived early to scout best perspectives for shooting. And then we waited on the light. It is often worth waiting for the absolute last of the light to see if anything magical happens in the sky. To our west, the sun set over Narragansett Bay, with beautiful orange skies, but no real photographic interest. But as we watched and waited, this white sailboat approached and passed. Knowing a little about sailing from my past, I made note of the wind, and calculated that the boat (it was actually a large, tour charter boat on the last leg of the day) would come about and come back toward us. I quickly swiveled my tripod head around, took some metering measurements, and waited to frame the boat where I wanted it to be. I knew I would get 2-3 shots at best of this quickly moving boat.
2018 has been kind of a slow year, photographically. But we absolutely made up for that in 2017. In July, we spent a week in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. We saw many amazing sights and I did my usual early morning walking around both cities. I was intrigued by Tokyo Tower, lit at night, and worked hard to find a good place to photograph it from. I took a few from a couple different places. But it turns out that the best I could do was through the window of our Tokyo Hotel.
In September, we made our 3rd, and much anticipated Mediterranean Cruise. We again spent several days in Venice. One of the other places I had seen and wanted to shoot was the Greek Island of Santorini. We had a wonderful tour guide, who happened to also be a photographer, and he the right time and place for us to be to get shots I am certain I would never have found without his help, in spite of the research I had done. Did I mention that Venice is “eye-candy” for photographers? Ditto Santorini.
Well. This was an interesting exercise for me. I tried to keep it to not more than 15 images. There were many more that perhaps fit the bill. And I am sure there will be more to come. As always, thanks for reading.