Here is a triptych I out together from some of my shots taken while hiking in the mountains surrounding Boulder, CO. Not my usual images but I like the subtlety of colors, this captured the dreary weather that would roll in and out during the day. Working on these images from Boulder really makes me wish I lived there, maybe someday I will be able to convince my work that I can telecommute from there :)
I am sure I am not alone in often finding it difficult to find photographic inspiration where I live. I have taken to heart the advice given by a good photographer friend many years ago, I almost always have a camera on me. You can't take a picture if you don't have a camera. So even if I am just going for a stroll in the neighborhood you will often see me with some sort of messenger bag and there is likely a camera or two tucked away inside. I don't really have any specific images I am out to grab, but want to be ready if I see something. And 9 times out of 10 I return home with out a single image snapped.
The opposite is true if I am traveling and walking around a new place. The cameras are out and my problem is putting them away. This becomes a bit of a problem when traveling with someone else as I am always torn between wanting to grab the shot and not ignoring or making my traveling companion feel uncomfortable. So why is it that I can't find the same inspiration where I live?
Part of the problem is where I live. I live in Old Town Alexandria which is a very nice, touristy little part of Alexandria. The streets are lined with crafty stores in 100 year old buildings. The people who line the streets are mostly camera wielding tourists and Old ladies out to but the latest crafty decoration for their house. In other words not what I like to shoot. There is also the fact that because I live here I often feel like I can always come back another day when the light is better and grab the shot.
The usual challenge given to intro to photography students is to go out to where you live and try and find new ways of seeing the familiar. It's a great exercise, but having lived here for almost 10 years now I think I have done all I can do. But I still take my cameras with me and every once in a while I do snap a pic or two.
One of the things you learn in any good beginning photography class is to try and judge your images for what they are not what you want them to be. In other words to detach yourself from the emotions of why you took the image to see if it actually works as intended. To often when first starting out we want every image to work and end up getting attached to the idea of the image rather than how successful it is. You learn quickly that being dispassionate can help you get better by forcing you to go back and revisit a failed attempt.
Well sometimes apparently the reverse is true. Last year I had what I thought was a brilliant idea for a shoot. Most of the time in my photography I am out and about and shooting in the moment. Street photography does not lend itself to planning in advance. You can't decide on the image you want to capture and then go out and find it. You have to think and feel on the fly and react to what is around you. Even when I do studio portraits I approach the shoot much like I do my street photography. I react to my subject and try and find something interesting. I may have a few ideas going in, but I always end up either finding something totally different or making the original idea better.
Back to the point. I had a great idea. I hired a model. And spent an evening shooting. The results were not what I had in my head. FRACK! I have spent a lot of time trying to learn from what didn't work, but I have yet to go back and re-shoot. I will one of these days once I know I have a good idea where to go. So after review the results from that shoot and working a few images into the vision I originally had I ended up realizing that I didn't have what I wanted and left the images alone for about a year.
Recently I went back and looked at them with fresh eyes. nope still not what I originally wanted, but since my original concept required the combining of two images to create two personalities in frame I never had looked at the individual images on their own. I had always looked for the combinations that would convey the story I wanted to tell. It turns out that there are many images that work quite well on their own. Below is one such image. Let me know what you think and tell me what story this image tells you.
The moral of the story is to periodically review your old images. They may not have worked for what you originally intended, but maybe with distance you can find something you didn't see originally.
For those of you that care. This image was originally shot using Polaroid Sepia film. It was scanned, cleaned up and adjusted. I also converted the image to B&W using Silver EFEX Pro and then allowed a hint of the sepia tone to blend back in. I know I know to some of you altering a Polaroid (or any image) is sacrilege, but for me I will always see the image captured as the starting point not the end.
Here is another image taken above the tree line in Boulder, CO. And even more surprising yet another color image. I probably should go to the doctor because something is obviously wrong with me these days.
Ok so yes I still have more images to edit and show from my trip to San Fransisco, but I have also started working on some of the images from the end of that trip where I sent a few days with good friends in Boulder, CO. So here is the first. This was taken on little tour my friend Brian took me on of the local parks. We started the day by packing lunch and cameras and heading into the mountains. This image was actually taken towards the end of our day. We had driven up past the tree line and got out to hike a bit and take some pictures. It was actually pretty cold so the hiking got cut short since we hadn't really planned for this weather.
And yes this is in color which is very rare for me, but I think you will agree it works much better in color than it would in B&W.
Ok so here is my take on the required Golden Gate Bridge. I'm still not 100% sure it doesn't need a crop, I left the bike on the left just because many of my images from this trip are about bike culture. I think it is probably a little distracting so I am sure if I ever print this image the bike will be gone. I am also going back and forth on color vs B&W but since I pretty much always show my B&W I thought I'd go against my usual instincts and show the color.
As you can tell I love me some bike culture! Here is yet another image near Delores park with some fixie's being walked. In their defense they are walking on the side walk as they should be :)
Well I am coming to the end of the images I captured in San Fransisco, only a couple left and then I will start on some of the images I took in Boulder, Co. After that I guess I will have to get off my butt and develop the 3 rolls of color film I've had sitting around now that I finally have everything I need to try my hand at color developing.
More from my "series" taken in Delores park during my visit to San Fransisco. I am sure it is becoming obvious that I fell in love with this park. If I lived there I would most likely spend most of my free time there. As a photographer and avid people watcher this place is a gold mine for "street" style photography. It's strange because I live in a great city (DC), yet there is no place I can go and find such a diverse street life. In New York and San Fransisco you never know what you are going to find around the next corner but at the same time I never go a day without plenty of subjects and photo ops. DC has good diversity and plenty of culture and counter culture, but I find it is much harder to just walk around and find great subjects for street photography. Maybe it's because there is so many tourists, but I rarely try and shoot in the obvious tourist areas. Maybe it's because this is my home town and everything seems more normal to my eye's. Who knows. My plan for this year involves getting into the city more this year with camera in tow to try and capture DC's culture. I figure it is where I live, I should focus n shooting the people who live here more. Hopefully I will succeed.
So while in San Fransisco I of course noticed all of the fixie's everywhere. There is a thriving bike culture around every block. As expected anytime something is considered cool you will see the posers. I can't count how many high end track bikes I saw being walked by people who were obviously using the bikes as an accessory, I mean really when your hair and make-up match your bike who do you think you are fooling? I am for all things bikes so while I find the idea of a bike as decoration I can't really get worked up about it. It is still exercise walking your bike :)
Her is another image from last years trip to San Fran. Another of my favorite neighborhoods to hang out in is the Haight. Gone are the days of swarms of drugged out hippies roaming the street, and gone is the general grittiness and all around awesomeness that I am sure this part of town possessed. But you can still see glimpses of the past if you look closely enough. Now there is much more high end boutique shops and tourists taking pictures of the Haight and Ashbury street signs. But there are some great independent bike shops, some good vintage clothing shops, great places to eat and all around great people watching. Definitely worth a visit.
Well at least that is the plan. For whatever reason I spent most of 2011 struggling with motivation and my photography suffered a great deal as a result. At one point I was seriously considering just selling all of my equipment and finding a new passion, but even as I thought along those lines I knew I couldn't. Rather than spend time analyzing why 2011 was a bust I have decided that I just needed a break. So to start the new year I have developed the last rolls of B&W film I shot last year, ordered a few supplies to start developing my own color film. Yes I plan on shooting more color and figure it is high time I process it myself. I have started editing the last few rolls I shot last year and will start rolling them out on a weekly basis here and on Flickr.
I'll start with another from my trip to visit my sister in San Fransisco. Those of you who know me, know that I love cities. While I am equally at home camping or out in the country side, I will always live in or very near a major city. I am drawn to the endless opportunities to see and meet new people from all walks of life and frankly you just never seem to get that outside of cities. I love that around ever corner can be a completely new scene. My favorite way to travel to new places is not to research all of the "must do" tourist sites but rather to get a good map and a feel for what types of neighborhoods there are. Then I figure out the public transportation system and start walking around aimlessly. Driven by hunger and a desire to find good food I will roam with a few cameras and pretend I just moved to the area and start looking for anything that catches my interest. This method of visiting a new place does sometimes send me into random and dangerous place, it can result in an entire day of boredom. But it also leads me to find some really great places that most tourists don't ever see.
Years ago when traveling to San Fransisco with a good friend, we meet up with my friends friend (follow that?) at a little cafe on Delores St. right next to Delores Park. I was immediately drawn to the park. Nothing more than a grassy area on a hill with a few tennis courts on one end, it isn't anything special to look at. What drew me to the park was the swarm of humanity that gathers there. From young to old, hippies to the reserved. People enjoying a nice picnic to those selling "medicinal brownies". They don't gather there for a specific reason on most days as far as I can tell. I have visited the park many times on all of my trips to San Fransisco and have never seen an event going on. But everyday week day when the weather is nice people gather after work. Every weekend there is a mass of humanity. Everyone is just hanging out. It's simply brilliant. I am not the most well traveled person, but thus far I have never found a public space like this. Yes central park in NYC has tons of people hanging out, but it is so vast you can easily avoid everyone else if you want. I am sure there are part and times when vast crowds gather, but not like at Delores park. There is just something different going on and I like it!