I took the Vermeer 6×17 pinhole out for a spin today after work. I tried to do some pre-visualization of what I'm going to get by swinging my iPhone in panorama mode. I'm posting examples of what I anticipate, plus views of the scene with the camera in action. I think I've mentioned this before, but in any case, the Vermeer 6×17 pinhole has a hemispheric film plane, which means no vignetting (light falloff toward the corners), and you can have a physically smaller camera given your frame size. But it does introduce curvilinear distortion- thus swinging the iPhone to mimic the effect.
I was a bit nervous taking the steps shot, as I was standing on private property for TWELVE MINUTES. It really felt like trespassing. Fortunately no residents of either house came in or out during that twelve minutes.
I don't have an "action" shot for this one, as I was in a hurry to wrap up this exposure to try and get over to P Street while the setting sun was still above the tree and roof line. It was casting some beautiful warm sunset light that I just HAD to photograph (I posted a shot to my Instagram feed (@DCPhotoArtist if you're interested in my instagramming. It's very much one end of the spectrum of the work I do- 99% iPhone photography, spur of the moment kind of stuff).
The iPhone has had a major impact on personal photography. While it’s nowhere near as capable as my Fuji X-T1, it is both an exceptionally capable and flexible photographic implement, and the camera you always have with you. One of the very cool built-in features is the panorama function. On my way home from work today I was having fun playing with it, and testing out the low-light quality simultaneously.
As you can see, you achieve a panoramic image by swinging the camera from left to right (or in some cases top to bottom- This can also be reversed and swung the other way). You can do an up to 360-degree image. Because of the rotation of the camera, you get linear distortion.
When used carefully, This can make for some interesting images. The curves really highlight the shapes and the light in the scene. Used poorly, it can drag your eye (and hold it) in an ugly and/or uninteresting part of the image.
Another effect is if you have subjects moving through the scene, they can get stretched or compressed, depending on their speed of motion and direction, relative to the camera’s rotation. You can see that very clearly in this image.
Nighttime exposures present some challenges to image quality, especially when combined with the swinging of the camera to stitch together the exposure.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to take some portraits for a friend. I consider it quite the honor to have had the opportunity to take these portraits. It’s not often that you get to take pictures that really make a difference for someone, and aren’t just a vanity project. My friend, Arnel, needed some new photos for work, and for his blog. Arnel has ALS, and while not in Stephen Hawking’s condition, he is confined to a wheelchair, and has side-effects from the medication he takes. Despite it all, he keeps on working, and maintains an upbeat attitude. These two portraits are my favorites of the bunch.
I particularly like the one that shows his wheelchair because it’s there, it reminds you that he’s not ordinary, but it also doesn’t pull you away from his essential dignity and presence. It presents his disability as just a small part of who he is, rather than defining him by it.
We did these last two photos for his blog – he writes about his experience as someone with a disability, and what he does to overcome it. Here he’s demonstrating how to use a head mouse – there’s a sensor that mounts to the top of his laptop screen and looks at his head, and it reads the movement of the little silver square and translates that into clicks on the screen. He can type with it, too.
We did these shots in his living room which he has set up as an office. I brought along some portable battery-powered studio lights and used them to illuminate him working because unlike the portraits, which were taken outdoors (we were extremely lucky that we had high overcast clouds providing a beautiful natural softbox effect), the work area was quite dim and lit with overhead recessed lights which would have been terribly unflattering in addition to being too dim to get good exposures.
Throughout the Centro Historico, there are organ grinders playing their portable instruments, hat in hand for tips. A five peso coin is sufficient a tip if you enjoy their music. I gave this man a 10 peso coin for photographing him.
At the Templo Mayor museum, this guy was washing the windows, dangling from the roof basically on a couple of ropes.
Mexico City is a very musical city, if you give it a chance. It has a definite rhythm, and part of that is the sounds. The organ grinders are out, cranking away, and on seemingly every street corner, there’s someone intoning the litany of what they have for sale. This lady was outside the taquería next door to my hotel every day, pretty much all day, reciting the kinds of tacos they had and extolling their best quality. I never heard her voice waiver or decrease in volume.
All around the Zocalo, and at various spots through the Centro Historico, there are these shoe-shine booths. While the canopies shade the patrons pretty well, the shoe-shine men (and women) are out there in the sun and the heat all day.
Another part of the daily rhythm of Mexico City – people hauling stuff on carts.This guy is pulling a load of plastic baskets, but this is a pretty small load compared to some I saw.
Outside the Catedral Metropolitana, skilled day laborers set up soliciting work. Here are two plumbers specializing in gas, an electrician, and a plasterer/house painter.
My first full day in Mexico City, I got up early and walked around through the Centro Historico and got to see the city as it was waking up. Here was a street food stall set up on a pedestrian passageway cooking breakfast for the businessmen and shopkeepers in the neighborhood.
Across from the cook was the lime juicer making fresh limeade.
This is my tour guide who led us up through the bell towers at the Catedral Metropolitana. The cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in the Americas.
These dancers in traditional Aztec/Mexica costumes could be found most days performing on the plaza beside the Catedral Metropolitana. Here they were sheltering from a light rain in front of the Hotel Ritz (which is, unlike its namesake in Paris, a budget hotel) after a performance.
In the park area across from the entrance to the Anthropology Museum these traditional dancers were performing. At the top of the pole is a musician playing a traditional flute. The dancers are suspended by ropes at the ankles, and spin around to extend the ropes and lower themselves from the top.
For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, I took a short vacation down to Mexico City. I wanted to do an art-themed vacation, taking in museums and popular art and crafts, to get some inspiration for my own work. And of course, to take images of my own. For this trip I decided to take my new Fuji X-T1 and a couple lenses because it was much more compact and less conspicuous than the Rolleiflex. It proved a baptism by fire for me with the camera, as I was shooting with it 10 hours a day every day for five days. This generally is a good thing, and I’ll write up my impressions in a separate post.
One of the first things I noticed about Mexico City is that it is a very young city – you can tell the population skews much more toward 20 than toward 60. There are young people everywhere, wandering the streets of the Centro Historico, visiting the museums, riding the subway. I spotted these two young lovers on the plaza in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes. You saw many young couples like these two holding hands and being publicly expressive. This was a bit of a surprise to me as my last impression of Mexico City was 30+ years ago when it was a much more conservative, much more Catholic place, and this kind of public display between unmarried youth would have been frowned upon.
Further signs of change in Mexico City – young gay couples holding hands in public. These two were touring the Casa Studio Diego Rivera with me, and I caught them in an unguarded moment on the roof of the studio. I should have taken their portraits too, but I did photograph them together with their cellphone as they were trying to do selfies with not much success. They were very cute and sweet.
I also saw several other young gay couples out on the street holding hands in the Centro Historico, which surprised me a little as I was not expecting it there.
On another early Sunday morning, I took a walk through the Alameda park, which was just up the block from my hotel. This boy and his dad were out to go roller skating in the park. I loved his punked-out helmet with the spiky mohawk.
In a passageway between Calle Madero and Calle Tacuba, just behind the Banco de Mexico, there’s this big bronze bird bench (try saying that five times fast!). I spotted this lady taking a rest, smoking and playing on her phone. As is typical everywhere now, people of all ages are glued to their phones.
A handsome young man on his phone, outside Chapultepec Park. Hot travel tip for anyone planning to visit Mexico City – the entire city seems to roll up the sidewalks and shut down on Mondays, at least as far as attractions go – there’s maybe one museum open. They even lock up the gates to Chapultepec park and only allow bicyclists who are transiting through to enter!
I went out for an early morning walk my first full day in Mexico City, to see what the rhythms of life are like. This man presented a dramatic composition in the morning sunlight as he leaned up against the wall.
These are some portraits I took of my friend Alexander last weekend out in Georgetown. We went out to create some work for a fundraiser benefit in Toronto for Sprott House, a youth shelter run by the YMCA specifically aimed at providing housing for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirit (the native American term for LGBTQ) teens and young adults. Alexander is a Latino trans man and open and proud, and I thought some portraits of someone living an out, proud life as transgender would be inspiring for kids struggling to deal with their own identities and the impact of being “other” on their futures.
The first couple images are pretty serious and straight images (pardon the pun).
A little bit of humor – this is Alexander’s club-hopping t-shirt. I teased him about the mixed message of serious literature on a clubbing shirt. But it is Lolita, so I guess it qualifies 🙂
Just because a photo has a serious purpose and carries with it a political statement doesn’t mean it has to be serious. While I was posing Alexander in front of the wall of graffiti, he spotted the duck with its tongue sticking out and imitated it. It was a great spontaneous moment and shows his personality.
Alexander wanted to do some shots to show off his growing muscle definition, so he went and climbed the stone pier for the ramp over the canal…
And then jumped off of it…
His script tattoo says “it is better to have kisses than wisdom”. I haven’t made up my mind about whether I agree with the sentiment, but it definitely suits his personality.
Under the ramp to the freeway that passes over the C&O Canal there’s always some interesting graffiti, and right now it’s tagged with this beautiful silver metallic paint that really complemented Alexander’s red and purple outfit.
The last image I feel makes for a great closer for the series – Alexander’s gesture seems to be saying “come with me and we’ll have a fun time!”.
This is a view I’ve seen a number of times but wasn’t ever sure how to capture it until yesterday. I’ve always had the wrong camera with me, either from the focal length, the aspect ratio, or both, perspective. This is an outtake in the sense that I was doing a model shoot with a friend of mine on the pier of the old C&O Canal bridge that used to cross the Potomac River in Georgetown, so taking this photo was not the purpose of the shoot. This is the view looking straight down at the dock for the boathouse.
I was particularly drawn to the geometry and angles formed by the decking on the boat dock, with the red decking running perpendicular to the unpainted deck, and all the triangles formed by the perspective you have to take to see the scene in the first place. Even the boat, which has a totally different shape and texture to the decking, creates more triangles with its prow, and provides visual tension running the opposite direction so you move your eye around the image.
There are times when you want to capture something delicate in backlit lighting – a translucent flower for example. Going strictly with the natural light you end up with either the translucent parts blown out to get detail into the front, or you have a dark blob in the middle to keep the delicate highlights under control. This is where fill flash comes in handy.
Normally I loathe little pop-up or shoe-mounted flashes because they’re about useless when trying to light anything more than a couple feet away, and they’re so close to the lens that they give people red eye and make pets look like demons. But as a fill flash, they really shine (shine, get it? pun!). They put out just enough light to take the edge off backlit shadows and add a little catchlight into people’s eyes. When used this way redeye isn’t a problem because in daylight people’s pupils are closed down enough that their retinas don’t reflect (the cause of red eye in photos).
Fortunately, flowers don’t have retinas, so we can dismiss the concern altogether.
I was using my Fuji X-T1 and had the tiny little toy-like pop-up flash that comes with the camera as an accessory. I took one shot of the blossoms without the flash. I knew right away that the blossoms would be too dark and not have detail; the little flash was exactly what I needed. I popped it up and let it put in a little kick. Voila!
In this set I’m including some black-and-white shots along with the color ones to show what the Fuji can do. I used the b/w+R setting (the equivalent of using a red filter when shooting black and white film). I don’t know that this is as extreme as actually shooting black-and-white film with a red filter in terms of the contrast and look, but I like it.
Mustafa showed up to the shoot in a tux, which is hard to work around if that’s not what you’re aiming for. It’s a good look, and a very elegant one, but not necessarily fitting a pool hall. I tried to shake things up a bit with the kaleidoscope glasses, the steampunk welder’s goggles and my own vintage leather jacket. Tip to models – unless you are told wardrobe will be provided, always bring at least two different looks to a test shoot with you so you don’t get stuck looking out-of-place on the shoot.
Mustafa has a great face – he looks good from lots of angles. When posing a model or a portrait subject, you want to make sure that you’re not doing anything un-flattering. If you’re turning the head away from front-on, you want the nose to either obviously stand back from or break the contour of the cheek so you don’t inadvertently flatten it by having it by having the tip of the nose meet the outline of the cheek. At the same time, pay attention to the eyes – you want to see whites on both sides of the iris. If you turn someone’s head in part profile and then have them look back at the camera with their eyes, the irises in the corner of the eye make them look like a psycho-killer. In these shots it works because he’s looking the same direction with his eyes as his face is pointing.