Boring Vacation Pictures?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bored myself before, during, and after a vacation or excursion. The destination was fine, but I wasn’t enthused with the resulting photographs. But I’m a seasoned photographer, what gives?

I used to be guilty of taking too many digital images of the same subject from the same point of view. With the explosion of smartphone photography, this approach has become aesthetically numbing. No matter the camera type, any of our photographs could technically qualify to grace the pages of National Geographic. But what would make our pictures of, for example, the pyramids or the Effiel Tower, stand out from the usual fare?

I’ll tell you what I do. What you don’t see in this picture of the pyramids is the line of bus traffic I waited to pass by. The camels entering the view made it appear like a scene from 1910 and not 2010.

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Speaking of camels, I ditched the standard animal shots to wait for them to cause a “traffic jam.”

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How many times have we seen open-air markets in foreign lands? Too many. I waited till nightfall and photographed the person who cleans up in Old City Jerusalem’s street market.

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Forget about staged or group portraits, it was more interesting photographing these Bedouin guides during a night expedition.

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Here’s a quickly assembled color series from a trip to Hawaii.

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Here are my tips to create a compelling narrative while developing a critical photographic eye before, during, and after a vacation.

1. Google your destination. See what has been photographed before and what possible perspectives may be available for you to shoot from. Then again, it may be preferable to not look at anything until you arrive there with fresh eyes.

2. Become familiar with and shoot with one focal length. Too many changes between wide angle and telephoto views can be confusing to you as well as your audience.

3. Ruthlessly edit down the number of images. Get rid of duplicates.

4. Ruthlessly select the best images from your destination. A single image may represent a single experience or a single stop.

5. Regard your selections as special, as if they were in a show. As a matter of fact, make prints instead of putting your photographs on a video screen. 10 to 20 compelling images will be more interesting than 200-300…trust me.

In my next post, using the above method to edit images from a recent trip to San Diego and Carlsbad, California. I took about 300 digital and film images, but I’m not going to bore you with everything. 😃

Goodbye Folsom Street

After a two year hiatus, I was mentally and physically “gearing-up” this week in preparation of attending Sunday’s Folsom Street Fair .  I’ve decided not to go.

With over 250,000 attendees, this San Francisco leather and fetish festival is packed into about 13 blocks. It is a photographic goldmine, especially for portrait photographers. As a street and documentary photographer, my images from past fairs show quirky moments that I specialize in. Unfortunately, many of those images are too risqué to be shown to a general audience.

According to local media, in addition to regular warnings of not bringing kids and/or stay away from the area if the nudity is not your cup-of tea, there will be warnings of getting consent before you touch anyone or take a picture. Flyers say “Gear is not consent. Nudity is not consent. Ask first before photographing or touching someone. No means no.”

Due to the nature of the event, I acknowledge that there were serious incidents of touching at past fairs (years ago, a drunk woman gabbed my butt and ran away…and that happened before I even went through the admission gate!). And I acknowledge current events such as the “me too” movement are driving needed awareness.  But I, and many other photographers, don’t attend Folsom Street because we need to touch someone or collect pictures for porn collections. We pack our gear to get great images. The below photograph was taken about 7 years ago and hangs in my home office. It’s part of my San Francisco collection. When kids ask me who it is, I tell them it’s Bane, from Batman. ! 🙂

I’m not here to debate the First Amendment. Anyone can legally photography on a public street but these “warnings” create a hostile environment for photographers with camera gear while those photographing with the ubiquitous smartphone are not branded as perverts.

What am I gonna do about it? It’s Not Complicated. I’ll just save the admission fee and film and photograph places that are not criminalizing photography.

If I Do Color, I’m Doing Snapseed

Only two of the 88 frames I took at the Berkeley Marina were presentable. That’s much better than the “Zero” out of 150 taken weeks prior. But that’s not what drove me crazy. I wasted time attempting to edit these two on the computer…I remember why I became a minimalist photographer. I wasn’t going to accept the super sharp, plastic rendering.
 
As I was about to throw the whole project away, I decided to play with Snapseed, the Google photo app on my phone. One click and it was over! It gave me the grainy look of Kodak Portra 400, my preferred color film. No more color editing on the laptop. Snapseed on an iPhone or iPad or forget it.

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A Point-and-Shoot Wedding

I couldn’t help myself. I tried to be a “guest.” As a former wedding photographer, I had the very best intentions of “laying low.” Hell,  I even bought my granddaughter’s point-and-shoot camera, still sporting the “My Little Pony” decals, to make sure that I didn’t get caught up in the moment.

But the minute I stepped through the church doors, my eyes immediately scanned the light and space. My mind started composing in 28 mm…50 mm. Flashbacks of my glory days only emboldened me.  I gave up trying to suppress what gave me joy!

As this was an evening wedding and the light was deteriorating, I made some adjustments and still obtained a respectable number of images considering I only had a “point-and-shoot.” Consumer-oriented point-and-shoot cameras are small, lightweight, and easy to maneuver but aren’t the most responsive cameras for a wedding. But that didn’t matter, my pictures went over well not because of the camera or photographer, but because they captured important moments.  It’s Not Complicated.

Thanks to Andrea, the hired pro, for allowing me to share the space.  🙂

 

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