Shots and Thoughts

Photos and comments as I explore my passion for photography. Written to and for myself as a journal to track major moments and minor observations as I continue to evolve my visual art. 

iPhone Shots

Sometimes the shot appears and the iPhone is the answer. 

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: All the above shot, edited and uploaded to the blog via mobile app on phone. Some obvious limits, including sequencing of photos as I don't see how to reorder them. The image quality from the iPhone 6 is fine for this format.

Family Shots for the Holidays

It's holiday portrait time and a delight to shoot this Bay Area family again. This year was a studio session along with some great images captured on the studio deck. The had great creative ideas including costumes for the kids!

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

Pro tip: We scheduled holiday photos but also captured some super individual portraits of both the kids and parents. A little out of scope for the shoot but I am delighted to support long term clients. 

Creative Portraits

I had a fun time this week shooting marketing/promotional material for a local musician. The fundamental portrait set up along with a creative twist made for a cool set of shots. It didn't hurt that Mitchell was laid back, handsome and a delight to work with.

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

Pro tip: This shoot went well as I had a capable assistant to help with the lights and creative design. Shooting tethered works so well in the studio. We did three set ups in the studio and two location shots, all good. Having a variety of shots is important when shooting creatively.

Gesture

Trying to shoot more gesture,  this senior was soaking up the sun in the afternoon outside our local coffee shop.

San Jose | 2017

San Jose | 2017

Pro tip: Nothing special here, but a favorite of mine as I shot it with the Leica MD, 28mm 5.6 lens. This Leica is unique as it is digital with no digital display on the back. So you can't see what you shoot, much like film. This image was taken with zone focusing and it worked! All the above make it a memorable image for me, but unremarkable to any one else. That's OK!

Slice of Light

Working the light at Kyoto Station today, just a slice coming across the commuters leaving the train.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: This image works from a color and light perspective, but overall fails as there is no gesture. Not a compelling shot without some emotion or gesture.

Matt Stuart in Kyoto

A fun evening at Leica Kyoto last night as Matt Stuart held a student review of the images taken during his five day Japan workshop. Eight students with all shots from Kyoto except one day in Osaka. Matt also took the audience of about 50 through some of his best photos.

At the end he took questions from the audience and the best one was last: What is the most important thing in street photography?

Matt had a direct answer: Be relaxed, being on no time frame as you are shooting, which makes him happy. This state lets him blend into the scene with no drama and he can shoot away. Great advice I think, as I notice a similar vibe when in the zone shooting. Happy, chilled and relaxed.

When I look at Matt's work, it seems fun and light, just like him. His color work is really super but it is the capture of gesture that really makes his shots come alive. Reminds me of Jay Maisel: color, light and gesture.

Matt also talked about editing, sequencing and selecting photos to be sent to Magnum, as he applied for membership. When asked about how to do this his advice was to make sure the portfolio flows together, shot to shot. How to do this: by gut feel. 50 shots submitted.

As a bonus Matt signed his book for me and I got to see Chloe again from the Magnum Tokyo office, nice!

Kyoto | 2017 

Kyoto | 2017 

Pro tip: I need to get back into shooting more gesture. As I have been in the black and white world for a year + it is easy just to look for light, contrast, shadows, etc. Adding some color and gesture to this light work would be good.

Framed

I enjoy seeing how colors and textures are presented in window frames, especially in the small houses around Kyoto. I imagine they look beautiful inside the homes also.

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Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: I try to shoot a tight shot and also a wide shot to share the contexts of these city images. 

Pro tip: I try to shoot a tight shot and also a wide shot to share the contexts of these city images. 

Window Portraits

Window light is often good for a simple portrait. When you are shooting with a wide 28m lens it can be tough to get a "standard" look due to the distortion.

Kyoto 2017

Kyoto 2017

Pro tip: Go wide, low and tight for the portrait work with the 28mm. Put some creativity into the composition and framing, push it. Watch the edges and shoot a lot.

 

Expression

As I interact with subjects there is often a smile that appears when the camera is raised. I get that shot but then keep shooting until another emotion or expression shows up. 

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: Shoot till it feels a little awkward, then take three more shots.

Laughter

One of the reasons I love shooting in Kyoto is that the people are so friendly. Even the out of town tourists that come and rent a kimono for the day love to be photographed. 

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: About 75% of the time I have some level of interaction with my subjects, from a few seconds to spending time together. Emotional photos can come through emotional connections.

Wabi Sabi

Shooting through screens, gels, dirty windows, etc can be fun and lets the visual artist have some expression.

Kyoto | 2017 The morning baker

Kyoto | 2017 The morning baker

Pro tip: It helps the viewer if you can put the frame into context, show the larger photo along with the best tight image. 

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Kyoto | 2017 The morning baker

Portraits And Visual Art

My original love of photography centered around portraits, then expanded to street style and on into visual art images. Sometimes you can combine all three.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: Make a portrait count. Here I moved the couple to cool light and a clean background. This 20 second adjustment let me focus on the emotional connection between us.

Gear Up

My photo gear selection is pretty boring and standard, a 28mm size lens and what ever body I have in my bag. But using the flash at night in the rain (or snow) can make an image pop.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: I use the flash in manual not TTL mode, experiment a little to get it dial in. This lets me get the light balance right with the rain drops and background.

 

 

Challenge

I like to push myself to see if I can make a unique image of iconic locations, here is my shot of Kyoto Tower in high contrast B/W.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

But I have been pulled into color on this trip!

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: I enjoy this exercise, it pushes my creativity, especially my pre visualization. A lot of misses but sometimes a cool result.

Color and Composition

Rain, umbrellas, light, color and composition. What more does a visual artist need?

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Pro tip: The strong foreground anchors this shot but the key is catching the full stride/step in just the right place. And of course color.

Layers Upon Layers

As my experience and skill improves, I always look for the next level of shot to master. Adding visual layers, depth and managed complexity can make for an interesting shot. But not easy!

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

I practiced a lot this weekend with Eric Kim and improved a little with the following approach:

1. Shoot from street curb back into buildings.

2. For this shot you can increase your odds if you as the shooter are fixed, not moving.

3. Hold camera chest high, not at eye level until the split second to make the shot.

4. Manual focus with pre set distance helped make a quick shot as this is all about timing.

5. Good light helps so you can keep the shutter at 1/1000 and strong depth of field, F8 ish. I personally shoot at ISO 3200 for everything as I dig the grain and vibe when it happens.

6. Pick an anchor image/person in the back ground. It helps a lot if they are not moving.

7. Put the camera focus on this image/person.

8. Wait for new, moving  people to enter frame. Three or five total is usually better that two or four.

9. Try to get strong bookends for the left and right frame lines. This could also be a tree or sign, etc.

10. These shots happen quickly so some pre visualization helps. Colors, textures, shadows, etc can all be worked into these shots.

11. I found it helped to literally step in 2-3 feet as the scene came together. So standing on the curb and then smoothly stepping forward as I raise the camera and fire the shutter all in one move. Most people were unaware I took the shoot, no adverse reactions.

12. These layered shots become even more interesting using heavy shadows and slices of light. Dialing down the exposure compensation is a good move here.

13. I also want to try this with flash as it helps freeze the moment. As I am coming in at 90 degrees, it is not as confrontational as a Bruce Gilden frontal.

14. I shoot these with a 16mm on 2/3 sensor so best to be very squared up to the back focus subject. But a slight camera rotation puts some edge in the image.

15. A fun technique is decapitation, where you purposefully cut off the head of one of the passing subjects. It can make the scene more dynamic.

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Finally this layered shot requires a good deal of luck and timing so to increase your odds of success shoot A LOT. I shot 1296 images last Saturday (not all for layered) and really delighted to get a dozen cool images that are keepers.

Pro tip: This type of shot requires clear intention, not just a casual grab shot approach. Picking your spot, the anchor subject then blending into the scene for 20+ minutes works for me.

Guidance

Sometimes checking the sign helps, but really Google maps are your best bet when traveling.

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Pro tip: In looking for these night time frames, it helps the photo to be more dynamic if there is multiple figures in the image.

Kyoto in Color

Always fun in Kyoto, I love shooting here. The  light is beautiful, people happy and friendly with a mix of old and new culture.

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Pro tip: Group shots visually work best with 3/5/7 people. These kids enjoyed a late summer afternoon by the Kamo river. 

Visual Artist

A good discussion this weekend in Kyoto with Eric Kim and Cindy Nguyen about creativity in photography and life in general. The intention of being creative everyday. Expanding into drawing, poems, music, painting, sculpting, etc as a way to stimulate the energy and openness to see differently. Also the heightened tactile feelings from engaging in active creativity, the haptic experience. More than just taking photos, stepping back to see real art.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: I shot in color and I liked it! Maybe a new portfilio in color would help strectch my creativity as a Visual Artist.

Crow Boy

A book we read to our son a lot was "Crow Boy", it is somehow still on my mind. The crows are large and loud in Japan and can be annoying if they dig into trash and make a big mess. But I am drawn to them somehow.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

I have been looking at the cool and intense photo book by Masahisa Fukase called "Solitude of Ravens". Fukase has an interesting back story and tragic ending, but the "Ravens" book is pretty awesome as he took thousands of shots over several years and then worked them into a deeper piece of art that let him explore some pretty raw emotions. The project also had a tech angle of creatively lighting the birds in flight. Many good on-line reviews of his work.

Pro tip: The crows fly right before dawn here in Kyoto, that means about 4:30am.......