Okay, are you happy now? I know that cat photos are the glue holding together the entire expanse of the online world and I want to do my part. This was the image that got the ball rolling in my recent Laguna outburst. I shot these images in about a twenty minute span, in between talking to strangers, wondering what would happen if a tsunami hit and trying to remember where my spare batteries were. I got a lot of stuff on my mind people. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. My time for photography is limited these days, so these little moments are what gets me through. I need them like I need oxygen. In other words, these are the moments when I get to “play” photographer. These are not great images, and in some ways it pains me to even post them, but I’ll get over it.
I’m not sure how well this post is going to go over but I thought I would give it a go. I think this topic is important, but I’m wrong about 77% of the time. Approximately. Now lets forget the fact I’m shooting on the beach in Laguna, which isn’t my favorite place in terms of subject matter. I arrived in Laguna right at sunset and was so excited about the light that I ran around like a crazy person. I was almost going to shoot some self-portrait reflection when I looked down from parking lot level and noticed a woman by the water’s edge. This particular woman had a cat on her back. The cat, obviously, wasn’t real happy about being there and was consequently trying to climb off this woman’s back. It looked interesting, so I ran through the crowd of out-of-towners wearing board shots and tank tops in the 50 degree weather. (I know you WANT it to be warm but it’s not, and the water is ice cold damnit. Googling this stuff can save you some pain.)
These images you see below were shot within seconds of one another.I think one of these images is more modern than the other, and I also think one of these images is better than the other. Here’s why.
This image is what I would consider a “modern” or 2013 style image. I’m using a 1.4 lens at 1.4 even when there is plenty of light to use a smaller aperture. We live in the age of the 1.2 or even the .9 lens, and it appears as if a lot of folks using these lenses are using them at these apertures ALL THE TIME. One look at modern photojournalism is enough to tell me that. In that case it’s the 35mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.2 Canon that seem to dominate the landscape. No doubt, these are impressive optics, but there is more to life than a soft or “blown out” background. Now in this particular case I’m focusing on the couple in the foreground, with the rest of the humans adding to the layering of the background. Even at 1.4 you can still see location, landscape, etc, and perhaps if the moment in the foreground, the couple, was more specific I would like this photograph more, but it’s not.
This photograph to me is less “modern” but more interesting. This image was shot about f5.6 and has a lot more information to deal with, which means, at least in my normally wrong opinion, it requires the viewer to spend more time with it, which in the age of ZERO attention span is a good thing. Now it works for me for several reason. First, the light is good. Second, the layering is good. Also, the guys third from the left and second from the right are both looking back in my direction, which gives me the human connection I’m looking for. This photograph also gives me more detail about the location and landscape and also informs me that every single person in the image is male, which I can’t explain entirely and don’t know if that tells me something or if it is just a coincidence.
Now, before you go complaining about NOT seeing the cat photograph, don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m going to post ONE of these images again, in context with the rest of what I shot in those precious few moments, so don’t get estranged on me. Look, I like a fast lens as much as the next gal, but I’ve never understood the concept of wide open all the time. Remember, as a documentary photographer your goal is to document, education, inform and influence, and sometimes that requires a lot more than 1.4.
I had time to shoot two rolls in Chicago.
I’m not a street photographer, but my coworker Kent and I ventured out with several of Chicago’s finest photo-friends and we made do with what we had. The weather, thank God, held out JUST long enough for us to wander the streets in search of the elusive snap or two. I am a total wuss, and temps below 85 degrees send me into near panic, but what had to be done had to be done.
Just being able to wander with camera in hand is really enough to get me going. I don’t need to always make contact. I find myself, at times, so lost in thought while I’m supposed to be making pictures that I sometimes feel these moments for me are more like therapy than photography. Chicago has history, and you have to pay your respects, in some way, before the city begins to reveal itself to you. There is no “add water, get photograph,” even when it rains. These have all been done, and will be done again. My fingerprints are on them, but the CSI would have a hard time finding mine amongst the thousands of others.
I try to be methodical about these type picture making moments. I come home and the film gets dropped right away. The images are scanned, uploaded, downloaded by me and then edited and tweaked. I rename them, renumber them and then start to figure out what they are about or if they actually mean something I can’t initially see. Are they worth anything? Of course but what? I want to thank all of you who came out and walked the streets with us. We learn a lot from you and appreciate your time and energy. Not to rub it in but it’s 80 degrees here today in California. Oh, not a cloud in the sky. Again, thank you and keep snapping.
The latest installment “Books I Love.” The concept is very simple. Find a book in my collection, photograph it, then share it with you. The idea being to share what I love about the book or why I have it. The books will range from traditionally published, POD and handmade. The only stipulation is that I love the book. Most of them have a backstory, which I will also share. Books and photography are forever linked, so why not explore the relationship through my bookshelf. Hope you enjoy.
In addition to being an epic traveler, writer and composer, Paul Bowles was an influential superstar when it came to the creative world. “Yesterday’s Perfume”, described as “a memoir of friendship” is the blending of lives, loves and relationships through the narrow streets of Tangier. Brought to us by Cherie Nutting, friend of Bowles, who not only weaves the story but also provides us with a variety of stunning imagery.
The book was designed by my friend and uber designer Elizabeth Avedon.
Machu Picchu Wind, 2011.
I’ve made the trip up to Machu Picchu about six times now, and I realized after the second visit there was no way to predict what I would see. I’ve seen the place completely and uttering deserted and I’ve seen it overrun with tourists. Both situations were fantastic. I’ve seen it rain. I’ve seen the sun shine. I’ve seen incredible clouds and I’ve seen wind which is what this post is about. The wind comes up from the valley and just rockets past the areas near the edge of the site. If you are lucky people slap on their plastic rain sheets and let the wind take them for a ride. I’m not really a ruins guy, but I don’t think I will ever tire of this place. I could stare into those mountains forever.
Flemming gets blasted, Machu Picchu 2011.
This second image is of Flemming Jensen, a student from last year’s workshop. It had been a slow, wet day at the site, perfect in so many ways, and Flemming and I ended up in the same area. As you visit the site everyone breaks off and goes their own way, but you keep running into people you know here and there. I ran into Flemming just as his rain gear was in full revolt. Oddly enough he’s Danish, and in Denmark they routinely wear their rain gear this way, something about their Viking past, but I still found it worthy of a quick snap with phone.
This is maybe the worst video footage in history but someone had to shoot it. Might as well be me. We are headed back to this sacred site at the beginning of this year’s workshop. I’m already scheming and planning as to how I’m going to work this place. Can’t wait.