Shooting photos in the rain is fun. Shooting photos in the rain with a camera that's not exactly waterproof? Not so much. The photograph above is one of many that was the end result of running to one of the gift shops in the Snowbird, Utah resort complex and buying a large $8 handkerchief to cover my camera with. The end result, in all its hazy and low-contrast glory, reminds me a bit of the scene from Paint Your Wagon with the song "They Call the Wind Mariah." Sure, the photo is nothing special. But it certainly does communicate a sense of the mood of the situation.
I love trying to find bokeh in unusual circumstances. In case you don't know, bokeh is (in simplest terms possible) the word used by photographers to describe the circles of light found in the out-of-focus backgrounds of images. Though it is often found in night photography, especially those which feature city lights or something of the sort, bokeh can also come about in daylight shots as well. In the photograph above, the sun's positioning combined with a (relatively) dark background and an abundance of dewdrops on the pine needles create the magical light show in the frame. This photograph was captured while hiking in Snowbird, Utah.
The FED-2 Soviet Russian camera that I owned last year was a trusty beast. It never failed me, and the optical quality was superb. The FED-3 that I bought a few weeks back? Not so much, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of the first problems I've found with the FED-3 is that it experiences light leaks, and I'm not sure where they're coming from. It doesn't occur on all frames, and the ones that are affected range in severity from a slight blue haze over the image to a blown out mess. But that's just part of the fun, right?
The first photograph above was taken at the outlet malls in Primm, Nevada, and the second one was taken at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. Both were shot on the FED-3 with an Industar 61 L/D lens, and with cheap (and expired) Fuji 400 iso film. They are fairly grainy because of this fact, but I am still surprised at how well these shots turned out. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something personally appealing about the color tones found in these images that I just can't replicate with digital.
The photos I'm about to talk about were taken nearly a year ago. And they need a bit of explaining. You see, I am of the personal belief that everyone has their own story to tell. People often think that I, on occasion, randomly photograph strangers in public for no reason whatsoever. But in most cases, the people I photograph are individuals I find interesting, and whose unspoken stories intrigue me. Who is this person? Why is he/she here? What about said individual might hint at his/her own personal narrative? Though I may never know, the prospect still captivates me. The man below is one such person that I encountered.
I first spotted him in the San Diego airport while waiting for a flight. The reason I even noticed him in the first place was probably due to his crutches, the result of what appeared to be a broken foot. He seemed to be about average height, with a fairly athletic build (which probably coincided with his injury in some way). Armed with only a backpack, it was clear that he had difficulties maneuvering about the crowded terminal. He stood alone, somewhat uncomfortable with his apparent loneliness and his evident physical vulnerability. I seemed to lose sight of him, and forgot about him entirely until about an hour later when he boarded the same flight as me, after which he slipped my mind once more.
It was the third time I sighted him that I finally decided to pull out my camera and casually snap a couple of shots from afar. His circumstances intrigued me, and I found myself wondering what series of events brought him to Denver, Colorado. How did he break his foot? Why did he have a tattoo on his arm? Who was he on the phone with at the baggage claim? I'll never know the answers to these questions, and to some degree, I would rather not know. Life is full of mysteries, both large and small. And the fact that this stranger remains a stranger is potentially more powerful than whatever the truth might be.
Many photographers pride themselves on confronting their subjects when photographing strangers. Good manners dictates that one should ask permission before taking a photo, especially while abroad. Though I wholeheartedly agree with this practice, I choose to photograph my subjects in the exact opposite manner. As a "theatre person," I am a firm believer in the "fourth wall." When I am behind a camera, I take upon myself the role of an observer looking in on the outside world. Confronting an individual breaks this fourth wall, and it also forces a subject to shift out of his/her natural character.
There are Flickr groups full of photographs of "100 strangers," wherein photographers set out to photograph one hundred random strangers with their permission. While some of these sets might have one or two interesting shots, the truth is that the vast majority of these photos are simply posed and apprehensive smiling faces. Which is why I prefer anonymity when photographing people, shooting from as far away as possible and as discreetly as possible, as to not disrupt the natural flow of life. The wildlife photographer does not confront his/her subjects, and the photojournalist does not intervene and meddle with his/her surroundings. I fit somewhere in between.
And if you happen to be the man in the photographs above, I apologize for taking your picture in such a paparazzi-esque manner, and I hope your broken foot got better.
The first photographs from my recently-purchased FED-3 are in, and I couldn't be happier with the results. Though my local Wal-Mart still hasn't fixed their C-41 processing equipment, I actually shot a quick test roll with the camera right after I received it in the mail and prior to leaving on my trip. I didn't have a film scanner at the time, but I knew that even the negatives would be a good indicator of whether or not the camera produced satisfactory results. And my assumptions are now confirmed a couple weeks later.
Not only that, but I was also able to test out the scanning power of my new film scanner. I knew the Epson V500 was supposed to be good, but I am honestly blown away by how much quality this monster of a scanner offers at such low a price. I even had to knock the optical scanning quality of my scans from 6400dpi to 3200dpi, which still results in photo resolutions around 4400 x 2740 for a 35mm negative. It never hurts to have options though, right?
For only having roughly a half hour on top of Hidden Peak in Snowbird, Utah, I managed to capture quite a few memorable shots. I've found myself slowly acquiring the skill to work under pressure, and in this setting, I often create my best work. The weather up at the top was somewhat cloudy, granting me some great opportunities to capture the gentle dance between the clouds and the rocky peaks across the way. The only quaff in this visually-pleasing weather occurred when it started to lightly snow. While my old camera had great weather sealing, the model I downgraded to (for a variety of reasons) lacks any sealing whatsoever. Fortunately, it survived.
The photograph above is a shot that, in all honesty, shouldn't have worked. It was captured with a long zoom, facing downwards on the mountain. The framing isn't special whatsoever, and in terms of a nature photograph, the composition itself isn't what one usually sees. But where this shot shines is the lighting. Though it's often hard to capture the light that one sees in person with a simple camera, stopping down the exposure in post-processing really brought out the beauty that I witnessed in person.
In other news, I have yet to get the rolls of film I took during this trip developed. I've been trying since I got back, but the local Wal-Mart (which is the only place nearby that offers negative-only C-41 developing at a decent price) is having difficulties with their processing equipment. I've spoken to a few people in the department, and apparently they're waiting on a part to arrive. Till then, it's just a waiting game. Luckily, my Epson V500 scanner was delivered today, and the (unrelated) negatives I've scanned in so far have turned out fantastic. I highly recommend it.
This shot is an interesting one. Because I wanted to pack light on this trip, I decided against bringing a tripod. Though it came in handy while photographing outdoors in Colorado last year, I honestly didn't expect to miss it much. That thought went out the door by my first night at Snowbird. On my last day at the resort, while crossing a bridge that leads to some trails on the hillside, I glanced down to see a moderately-fast flowing river. With a cloud having just passed in front of the sun, I braced myself (and the camera) against the ledge of the bridge while snapping this shot, among others, with a (relatively) slow shutter speed. Though somewhat overexposed, as was to be expected, stopping down the exposure in the post-processing phase actually gave this photo some unexpectedly rich colors.
It took me awhile, but all 2000+ photos I took on my DSLR from my trip this past week and a half are now safely copied onto my desktop at home. My workflow can now resume as normal, and hopefully I'll be able to churn out postings at a more frequent rate! The photos here are still from day 1, and were taken between Las Vegas (where I found the billboard above) to Mesquite, Nevada (where the "bowling" sign below was photographed).
I found myself naturally capturing a wide range of photographs during this trip, which is surprising given my recent reduction in my lens collection. With only a 40mm pancake lens and a cheap 70-300mm zoom, I found myself shooting everything from natural landscapes to night exposures, from wildlife photography to mere portraits. The shots picked for this post might seem rather simple in terms of subjects chosen, but each of these photographs has a deeper story to tell.
Though I often snap away on my camera like it's nobody's business, the vast majority of my photos are composed in a split second and captured with intent. Whether or not other people find the same qualities in my photographs is another story entirely. But as far as my personal portfolio goes, I'm only doing this to make myself happy. Other people sharing in my joy, be they close friends or random strangers, is simply a pleasant bonus.