Tag Archives: street photography

Meet And Shoot – Columbia Heights

Today was my session of the “Meet & Shoot” class I co-teach with several other instructors at Photoworks. The class is a five or six session workshop on street photography where each instructor takes a group of students out for a guided photography excursion to a location of their choosing. Students can sign up for all sessions, or pick and choose which ones they want as their schedule and/or instructor preference dictates.

This time, I had three new students and three repeat students from the last time I taught this class. Due to some last-minute scheduling snafus, three of the students were unable to make it, so it was a very intimate walkabout, and I was able to teach as much as I was playing shepherd.

We met at the Columbia Heights Metro station, and once the crew was collected, we took a walk up to the little plaza in front of the Tivoli Theater where a saturday farmers market was in full swing. My three students, seen below (L to R: Matthew, Suzan and Bobbi) wandered around and took full advantage of my guidance for the session to use color as a foundational theme. The farmers market was a perfect opportunity, with all the fruit and vegetables on display.

Columbia Heights is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with a strong Latin-American presence. This is very obvious in the colors and styles of signage on shops and restaurants, and makes for a great subject for a color-based exercise.

Here Bobbi, Suzan and Matthew are examining some signage on a Dominican restaurant on Park Road.

We continued along Park Road over to Mount Pleasant, another neighborhood in Washington DC that also has a significant Latino presence. I took the opportunity to discuss including graffiti and public sculpture in your work as a “street” photographer. If you’re going to include other peoples’ art in your photography, make sure that you have a solid reason for doing so- it’s fair game as documentary, or if your capture and interpretation is transformative (abstract/close-up, for example), but if you’re planning to exhibit and market photos of other peoples’ art, even if it is displayed in public, you’re at best in an ethical gray area, and potentially in a copyright violation scenario.

Street photography is very much about found images – you’re not setting out to intentionally create compositions, but rather responding and reacting to things you encounter, like this poster that fell into the street and got run over until the rough pavement surface pierced through turning the whole thing into an abstract composition.

We had a great morning of shooting, and wrapped up for a chat at a cafe on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan (another neighborhood bordering on Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights). I’m very pleased with my students, and I’m looking forward to seeing their images from today at our recap class in three weeks.

Commuter Diaries – People

I know I was being very abstract or at least impressionistic with my earlier Commuter Diaries images, so in that sense these are a break from that line, and don’t quite fit. But they are about the commuting experience, so they have the potential to belong, if I develop enough images for them to blend in and make sense, and aren’t just outliers.

The first one is a woman waiting for the bus at my origin bus stop. Early morning, headphones on, anticipating the impending arrival.

Waiting For The Bus
Waiting For The Bus

This second one is a gentleman waiting downtown at Metro Center, peering down the street in hopes of spotting which bus is arriving next, anxious for the final leg of his journey home.

At Metro Center Bus Stop
At Metro Center Bus Stop

I think the latter is more successful because of the stilted angle, which makes it more dynamic and tense. I snuck that one by pointing the Rollei sideways, and had to live with what I got.

I have to keep reminding myself that sometimes it’s good to be loose and free with things, and that not all images have to be tack sharp and perfectly focused to be successful. I’ve been ruminating about this one because the composition is a bit unbalanced, and there’s a little motion blur to it, because it was another grab shot as I walked by and I didn’t have time to perfectly compose and focus it.

Boy On Bench
Boy On Bench

I think it’s a good object lesson from the original purpose of the series – taking long exposures that were not planned or structured in any way to free me up from being too formal. Even if this isn’t a fully successful image in some sense, it’s useful as a reminder to be relaxed and open to possibilities.

Everyday Objects – Stuff I see on the street

Just some more of those things I see when I’m out walking about, that we normally take for granted and/or ignore.

An electric meter that is not well-loved (but who loves an electric meter?):

The Leaning Tower of Power
The Leaning Tower of Power

Recycling cans outside the National Portrait Gallery:

Bottles, Cans, Trash
Bottles, Cans, Trash

The letters “URTS” cut out of a sheet of steel road plate used to temporarily cover a hole in the road:

URTS
URTS

Randomness

You know the old adage, “the best camera is the one you have with you”? It’s true. I got lucky and found these two shots as I was walking around the other day waiting to meet a friend for lunch.  

They’re snaps with my iPhone. It was the camera I had with me at the time. And proof that it’s the photographer, not the camera, or the software, that makes the image. 

I’ll be back in the neighborhood today after work with my Rolleiflex, and I’ll take them again. Different photos, different camera, different aspect ratio, so they’ll feel very different. I’ll try to remember to post them when they’re done. 

   

Street Style

I’m still learning how to shoot candid street scenes. This is a relative success story. I got on film what I imagined when I composed and shot this image – shallow depth of field emphasizing the boy with the red sneakers and mirror sunglasses. I saw him coming toward me, guesstimate focused a distance, then clicked the shutter when he hit that point. There was another shot I took on the same walkabout of a little boy clowning around on one of the bikeshare bikes that I had to guess the focus, and I missed, which was very disappointing because it was a cute composition.

Street Style
Street Style

I’m on the fence about the crop, though. Does it draw too much attention away from the boy in the red sneakers?

The Cacophony of the Modern World

First and foremost this was a test of my new toy, my Tele-Rolleiflex. I wanted to see what it could do in terms of depth-of-field compression and the look of out-of-focus areas. Then I noticed something in the photo itself – the repetition of a gesture. There are three hands holding cellphones in this scene, all in the middle of the same activity.

Cacophony of the Modern World
Cacophony of the Modern World

This inspired the title for this piece – The Cacophony of the Modern World – because it’s somewhat ironic. There is an entire civilization living vicariously through their smartphones, wandering through beautiful spring days staring and pecking at screens not much bigger than a business card, never stopping to look up, never engaging the people around them, staggering zombie-style through life. Except for cars and machinery, the world is becoming eerily silent.