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. 

Matt "No Bullshit" Stuart

This last weekend I participated in a 3 day workshop with Matt Stuart, part of the StreetFoto San Francisco week. We had 14 students from around the US, Canada and Latin America, with Joe Aguirre assisting Matt. A quick recap of the workshop as it was pretty deep and has taken me a week to digest (spoiler alert highly recommended):

It was an intense 3 days of work physically, mentally and emotionally as Matt had us engaged 110%. He started off with a review of each students work, a good opener as we shared some of our best work together. Matt committed to a “no bullshit” workshop, both from him and us. This was quite remarkable as it let all of us shed any worthless comments (Super! Awesome! Love it! Cool!) and deliver honest, direct feedback. Matt held us to it by holding himself to it. The result was clear, direct communication that was real and authentic. Not easy, not fun but 100% truth, 100% of the time. I would recommend this workshop for both beginners and advanced students.

Tough. Insightful. Honest truth.

I appreciated that Matt had a clear point of view about photography, art, shooting on the street, body language, etc. He did not hem and haw, but spoke his truth with conviction and confidence from shooting for over 25 years. His personality style is to be all in and with that comes mastery, a trait I admire as it only comes over time and experience. His feedback was spot on and delivered without anger, ego, etc. On a higher level it is rare today in the Insta photo world to find a teacher/mentor that is currently in the game of shooting every day. Hundreds of shots every day.

Overall schedule (will vary greatly by workshop location and attendees):

  1. Group intro and photo review

  2. Why, what and how Matt shoots

  3. Shooting in the street with assignments from Matt

  4. Editing and reviewing shots

  5. Discussion of sequencing and layout of zines, books

We also had cool evening lectures as part of the StreetFoto San Francisco weekend. Nice to see this program mature year to year, Joe Aguirre has been instrumental to the local and global success, maybe more next year? Matt did a new slide show of current and past projects, nice to see the direction he is headed as the definition of “street shooting” can be as big as you want.

SF | 2019 Matt Stuart

SF | 2019 Matt Stuart

So here is some of the Gospel According to Matt:

  1. No Bullshit as it is a waste of time. Deliver the news honestly and passionately, but not with anger nor attitude.

  2. Body language is important for street shooting. We discussed a lot around how to hold the camera, how to stand, how to show up in shooting street. Don’t hold camera down by side (looks like a gun?), don’t sneak hip shots, shorter camera strap so the time lag to bring up to shot is shorter, be humble in body language, NO sunglasses, etc. if you are tall use that in framing and shooting, same for short. No kneeling in street shooting, good shoes, keep your elbows in. A smile goes a long way. Watch how people move, their gestures (which often repeat themselves), how hands are positioned, touch, etc.

  3. Have a clear, positive vibe of why you are shooting so if there is any confrontation it is easy defused. Shooting for a project, love the light, cool glasses, student in class, etc. This lets you get close but also like an animal in the jungle people can smell if you are acting creepy. I actually used this when approach by a security guard during the shooting phase of the workshop, easily defused as I smiled and had a good vibe. Clearly key to check in with parents if shooting kids.

  4. First 10 seconds meeting someone sets the tone, last 10 seconds meeting someone sets the memory. Same with photo book layout I think. Start strong, shit in middle, finish strong.

  5. For street shooting Matt has three approaches:

    1. Fish: stay in one spot and let the scene develop. Check light and background, bad background kills many shots.

    2. Follow: track someone that is interesting and shoot a lot. Matt showed us a 1-2 minute sequence where he shot 40+ shots of a lady in hat with developing hand gestures.

    3. Fuck: jump on it as it is happening now, so always be camera ready.

  6. Matt was clear on his preferred camera settings: ISO 800, Shutter 1/1000 and then vary aperture as needed for bright and shadows. Set manual focus on 12 feet and pull to 4 feet as needed. He was shooting the Leica M10 with 35m lens, all day. I have settled on 28M, both Fuji and Leica.

  7. Shoot with the sun at your back as this puts the subjects in the best light. I really liked this approach as it was easy to remember and it works. This should work well in Kyoto with the E/W street lines.

  8. Most photos are ruined by background so watch this and set up the scene, especially when fishing.

  9. Graphic bullshit images. Yikes I love these but Matt was right that they are at best a 6/10 when done well. Most have no story, no emotional connection. Shoot it but look for an extended scene.

  10. yes, Yes, YES, YES!!! is a good vibe to set when out looking, make your dreams come true.

  11. For photo presentations start strong, shit in middle, end strong.

  12. Strongest image on the right hand page of zine/book.

  13. Book sequencing should not be obvious or heavy handed. Look for a shot bringing the heat into the next page. Matt reviewed his book with us and it was awesome to see the detail and depth that went into the layout, selections and sequencing.

  14. Think backwards in making a book or zine about postage, packaging, presentation. A white or off white color cover is tough to keep clean. A black page next to signing page helps reduce smear. Take control of your project as it is your best work: pick printer, paper, be on press if possible.

  15. Shoot early in the day, late in the day, rest in the middle when light is too direct and hot.

  16. Shoot a lot, need the data to process and review. A full day of shooting for me is +1000 images. 9/10 times you dont get the shot, so shoot!

  17. Never, ever just shoot one shot. Matt showed us a quick sequence he did following a lady in a hat where he did 40 plus shots in under 2 minutes.

  18. Fish where there are fish. Right?

  19. Sketch a shot to help frame and get ready for the scene to develop. Shoot some framing shots and see if moving a few feet makes a difference.

  20. Bad backgrounds, bad signage ruin street shots.

  21. Mystery, open shots are good, lets the viewer engage deeper.

  22. Shot the shit out of it when the scene appears.

  23. Slow down, breathe and let fish come to you.

  24. Watch for touch, hands, gestures.

  25. People repeat gestures in the street, so anticipate.

  26. Sometimes photographers need to undo the straight line framing we have been taught from childhood. Get loose, get fast, get close, get dangerous. Let go of the past.

  27. Look 30 feet ahead to anticipate people coming in the frame.

  28. Trent Parke, Christobal Hara, Saul Leiter

  29. No mom shots, no why are you taking my photo shots, no forced funny shots.

  30. Everyone zigs, you can zag.

  31. Forget sunsets and cathedrals shots, do better that good snapshots.

  32. 10% cropping is OK, fine to clean up the image.

  33. When asking for real feedback on your work, stay silent and hear the words.

The workshop was intense and powerful, it has taken me a few days to process. Matt’s direct feedback and clear point of view resonated with me as truth in street shooting. I took 1200+ shots, none were keepers, none to print, maybe one for IG. Time for more fishing, following and fucking (!).

Thanks to my fellow students as it was a good peer group, especially Dan Fenstermacher for adding to this post. Also a follow up session with Joe Aguirre was most helpful to think about how to put all this into action. Hint: next week Japan.

SF | 2019 Graphic Bullshit

SF | 2019 Graphic Bullshit

But I still like graphic bullshit images…..but can do more than that going forward.

Visual Interview

With a tip of the hat to Jesse Freeman, I thought it would be interesting to follow his format and make a Visual Interview. This was fun but also insightful on how to respond both directly and artistically. It also was an exercise in self reflection.

  1. Who are you?

  2. What is your favorite way to waste money?

  3. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

  4. When are you the happiest?

  5. What did your first kiss feel like?

  6. Where is home?

  7. Which body part do you have the most affection for?

  8. What is your favorite vice?

  9. How do you define adulthood?

  10. What is your favorite time of day?

  11. Who is your favorite person?

  12. What is the most important thing in any relationship?

Who are you?

Who are you?

When are you the happiest? Hmmm JK.

When are you the happiest? Hmmm JK.

How do you define adulthood?

How do you define adulthood?

What is your favorite time of day?

What is your favorite time of day?

Where is home?

Where is home?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What is the most important thing in any relationship?

What is the most important thing in any relationship?

What is your favorite vice?

What is your favorite vice?

What did your first kiss feel like?

What did your first kiss feel like?

Which body part do you have the most affection for?

Which body part do you have the most affection for?

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Who is your favorite person? 

Family Photos

Family photos are so fun to shoot and deliver as I know over time they gain more substance. Looking back 10/20/30 years at a family photo evokes emotions and memories.

Los Gatos | 2018

Los Gatos | 2018

Pro tip: Shoot at 1.8 or so by stepping back and isolating the group. Leading lines, right light all part of the set up. Then rotate and shoot again. A good rule of thumb is take the same number of shots as the number of people, so 4 images in each pose for the above group. Unless kids or dogs, then you can never shoot too much.

Emotions

Maybe to have an emotional photo you need an emotional connection, an emotional moment.

2018 | San Jose

2018 | San Jose

2018 | San Jose

2018 | San Jose

2018 | San Jose

2018 | San Jose

Pro tip: Lean in when these shots start to happen. My preferred shot is low, wide and tight with the 28mm. Capture the gesture, the moment.

Kansas City

A quick trip back to Kansas City to check in on my father, now 90 but doing really well. I don’t know if there are enough images here to make a project but maybe a couple of visits would add to the content/context.

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018 | Kansas City

2018| Kansas City

2018| Kansas City

Pro tip: Black and white works for this project. Shot on the Leica M10-P with 28mm lens, my own post with SilverEFX pro workflow.

Family Photos

I always enjoy making holiday family photos with clients as I know the photos will become even more important over time.

2018 | Baker Beach SF

2018 | Baker Beach SF

2018 | Baker Beach SF

2018 | Baker Beach SF

Pro tip: I shot these with the 35mm Fuji lens, good choice for family style shots. Shot about 1600 images, worked these down to 300+, shared 70+ with client. Everyone happy!

Executive Headshots

Modern head shots don’t need to be cheesy or boring. Mix it up to deliver a range of images for the client. Colin from Apple was easy to coach in front of the camera.

San Jose | 2018

San Jose | 2018

Pro tip: The black magic tee shirts works its magic again. It makes everybody look cool.

Holiday Photos

Three generations for the family holiday photo, delightful!

San Jose | 2018

San Jose | 2018

Pro tip: When shooting stay connected with the client, not hiding behind the camera. For me the best photos are emotional not sterile. To get there the photographer needs to be emotionally connected.

Vacation Photos

I always feel tension when we go on holiday as I want to shoot in a new, exciting location but at the same time it is family time, I need to be present.

London | 2018

London | 2018

London | 2018

London | 2018

Pro tip: I made the right decision to focus on the family for this trip and just grab a few shots when available. I only took the Fuji X100F, not super versatile with the fixed 35M lens, but was light weight and easy to carry. I brought 4 batteries and the charger, but only used the one battery I started with. No regrets, we had a super time together. But I did miss my Leica…

Wedding Day for Audrey

I shot the wedding and reception for Audrey this month, a delightful day for a beautiful couple.

San Jose | 2018

San Jose | 2018

Pro tip: I shot about 1650 images with 325 as keepers for the couple and family. Key is to anticipate and direct when required.

Creativity with IG

I am really enjoying the creative pop from pairing up photos together, then posting on my IG story line. The process of sequencing around composition, content, vibe, etc. to make a short story has been so fun, delightful.

Tokyo | 2018

Tokyo | 2018

 Pro tip: Keeping my post processing consistent over the last few years helps maximize the pairing opportunities. Good practice for the next book or zine.

 

In Camera Layers

I shoot a lot, almost everyday so the camera is on/off, in/out of the bag, etc. Inevitably a setting will get tweaked and it takes me a little while to reset as needed. This time something happened on the settings that I had never seen and could not figure out how to delete, so I just keep shooting.

Kyoto | 2018

Kyoto | 2018

Pro tip: It was an in camera multi shot setting! How cool and creative, I have now added it to my skill set. Sometimes you just have to go with the mistakes.

Ghost in the Street

They dart in and out of alleys and doorways, pros at avoiding the tourists and cameras. 

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Kyoto | 2018

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Kyoto | 2018

Pro tip:  Be ready for the shot, all camera stuff dialed in, including flash set up. Don’t forget fresh batteries to keep recycle time to a minimum. Then keep shooting!

Mobile Blog Post

Let’s see how this looks, ie field test! 

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San Jose | 2018

Pro Tip: if this looks good maybe there will be more blog posts? Post review from desktop, looks fine for blog post, lets do more.

True Black

As I look back on my B/W "style" one of the attributes is having some degree of true black in each image.

Tokyo | 2018

Tokyo | 2018

Pro tip: I think this true black anchors the image and also makes multiple images hang together.

San Jose Obon

A fun night shooting the San Jose Obon festival last weekend. I think it was my 37th time to enjoy  the day, food and evening dancing. Of course I wanted to shoot it, with the objective of making an image I have never made in the past.

San Jose | 2018 

San Jose | 2018 

Pro tip: Keep shooting, don't stop. Over 1K images in 90 minutes, probably a dozen cool shots. And that is why I don't shoot film....

Flash Bang!

A fun flash workshop this weekend in SF. We worked on the basic technical settings and also practical use with street shooting. The last day had us shooting the Haight Ashbury Street Fair in SF. Definitely an old school hippy SF vibe, a welcome relief from all the political news in the US. The workshop was a good shot in the arm to push my creative process.

SF | 2018

SF | 2018

Pro tip: ISO 400, 1/250, F16 flash 1/2 power as a good starting point. Use it off camera, held at chest height with claw style grip. The practice shots were interesting in color, I will need to tweak my post production if using black and white. 

Layers of Legs

A fun night shooting in Tokyo. Actually I was tired, it was raining and frankly had to talk myself into going out to shoot. Glad I did as it was fun but also got some great shots.

Tokyo | 2018

Tokyo | 2018

Pro tip: When in doubt go shoot. The motion, the engagement is the real payoff. Some cool shots are just extra, but appreciated!

Mood

A fun shoot with Faith who is starting a cool, new sports fashion line. She wanted updated shots for web and promotional marketing as the business plans to launch soon. I was delighted she asked for b/w images with a grey backgound, my favorite!

San Jose | 2018 Japantown Studios

San Jose | 2018 Japantown Studios

Pro tip: Vanessa assisted me on the shoot and we had dialed in all the lights and camera settings prior as expected. We shot on the Nikon, Fuji and Leica, all with unique renderings. We got some good vertical shots also.

Kyoto

Back to Kyoto, cold and clear weather. Maybe I will get lucky and it will snow as I have always wanted a set of b/w temple shots in the cold.

Kyoto | 2018

Kyoto | 2018

Pro tip: I have hat, gloves and scarf, ready to shoot.