I’m hoping I’m not alone when I say, street photography is very hard. Actually, any photography is very hard. Especially if you want to tell a story with a pleasing composition and good lighting. Let alone ask for outstanding excellence. Or worse, come up with a unique and amazing work of art. And double worse, make it so I “own” it. Okay, triple worse, be consistent at it. Quadruple worse, images that define who I am and what I want to say or tell over a series. The masters have done it. Contemporaries have done it. The people whom I have interviewed have done it. But clearly at this point, it is way beyond my current abilities.
I have shot a little over a thousand photographs since my last post of my own work back in June: My 1st One Hit Wonder. Yet, I have just this image and maybe one other one to show.
Frustration is the best word to describe where I’m at right now. How can I sit for hours or walk for hours in a town(s) and not find anything to shoot or shoot absolutely nothing worth looking at? The question that came to mind is: Do I know what I’m looking for in an image? Or worse, what am I looking for in an image?
I expressed my sentiment to a street photography buddy friend of mine, Mario, whose work and opinion I respect tremendously. He wrote back to me saying that he totally understood what I was going through because it’s exactly what he goes through. And the reality is, sometimes, there’s just nothing worth shooting at all. Life isn’t special every second. I laughed on my back when I read it.
Mario also told me some great advice. Just keep my head open and clear- receptive for anything that might come. I shouldn’t over analyze the image. Just shoot it and look it over later with an unbiased mind. Sometimes I might be surprised.
When you think about it, Mario is right. When I look back at all the interviews I’ve done, almost every photographer has similar advice: Don’t think- Just shoot. This state of mind gives me hope. I am going to adopt it and not fret over the greatness of every shot. Armed with gusto- I’m going to shoot the dickens out of everything.
Thanks Mario. Thanks everyone. Thanks for the simple but poignant advice. Now off I go with my camera. Hope you’ll be shooting too.
The Big Sleep
Somehow everything in the universe aligned for me when this shot was taken. When I shot it, I knew I had something special. I later showed the photo to my friend Mario and he told me I had hit the jackpot: The One-Hit-Wonder. Ever since then, I have been sitting on it and relishing it every time I look at it. Yes, I have been secretly enjoying this photo.
Today is as good as any day to finally show this photo. Now it’s onto the next. 🙂
BTW: Leica M9, Leica Summilux-M 1:1.14 35mm asph
The sun and any form of lighting always eluded me. I don’t know about you, I use to fib and slide my way in photography. I mean, I use to point and shoot, and have been very lucky with most of my exposures by using the Sunny 16 rule, F8, and ‘auto mode’ etc..
I have taken courses on photography and cinematography where I had to use complex light meters and shoot photographs and moving pictures that have difficult lighting conditions. I have lit gorgeous table top product shots to streets and buildings. And believe it or not, I would pass them with flying colors. But in reality, I learnt about exposure all through my head and not in my heart and soul. That’s why I would forget it all soon after I learnt it.
So when I sent my friend and critic, Mario, some photos I thought looked okay for feedback, he complained about my poor exposure. Which meant the photos were pure trash. Simple as that. It was a wake-up call that hit my core. I realized, if I’m going to be a good street photographer, I will have to really understand light and shade through a camera from the bottom of my soul.
I forced myself to learn exposure from my heart. Embrace and feel it from my gut. O bought me a small light meter, a Sekonic L-308s to help. You know what I found? Freedom. Yes. Freedom from my own limits of not understanding how the camera really functioned in the manual mode. Freedom from that stifling “A” mode which I relied on like a useless crutch.
When I don’t have time to go somewhere to shoot the streets (in Los Angeles, you have to drive several miles to shoot anything that’s remotely ‘street’), then I shoot my family and my dogs. But I shoot to learn and practice “light” manipulation. Practice makes perfect! Suddenly, my Leica was no longer a point and shoot but an extension of me and my eye. How cool is that?!
Sounds of the Sun