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. 

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.


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.