At the Border

street photography

We recently returned from a trip to Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, for the quinceanara of our grand-niece. Getting into Mexico was no problem; we just drove through from Calexico, California, to Mexicali, Mexico. Coming back was a different matter all together. We were in a line of cars for two and one-half hours, snaking along the approximately three mile path where border agents verified we weren’t carrying contraband of any kind and that we were legally able to enter the United States.

This queue made a captive audience of potential buyers for peddlers of all sorts. It also made for some interesting photos. Here are some of what I call Scenes from Inside a Car.

Looking for someone missing

The wall. The other side is California

Bargaining

Papers, please

Collecting plastic bottles

L’abuela selling Chiclets

Probably a Haitian refugee. She ducked behind a car when she saw my camera

Almost there

Night Photography

Outdoor photographs

Last month (January) we had the full blood moon lunar eclipse. Like millions of other people I went out to see what I could capture in photography. About 8:30 on a 20-degree night I drove out to the western part of Cache Valley, away from the city lights, where the mountains and trees were far away. The moon came up, but it was cloudy. I watched from the bed of my pickup as the clouds flitted back and forth in front of the moon as the shadow of the sun crossed the moon’s face. I had my camera set up on my tripod. I don’t have a long telephoto lens so I was using the 50-200 mm lens that came with the camera. Because of the low light I used manual settings, with the aperture at f/8 for good depth of field and toying with the exposure, anywhere from 6-20 seconds. It was difficult to center the moon in the focus ring of the lens, so auto-focus wasn’t working. I was in full manual mode. Most of the shots weren’t worth keeping but one, after some elementary enhancement and cropping, turned out not so bad for kit equipment.

After the clouds fully obscured the moon, I wasn’t ready to quit just yet. I still had a little feeling in my fingers so I decided to try some time lapse photography of the road and passing cars. Focusing on the road was a lot easier than focusing on the moon. I got the picture framed and waited for a car to come along. Then I hit the shutter button and waited for a 7-second exposure.

Finally, I took one of the road I was on. The long exposure gave a ghostly quality to the scene.

Experimenting With the Camera

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One of the great things about digital photography is you can click away without having to count the dollars every time you press the shutter. Back in the days of film, you got 12, 24 or 36 exposures for whatever the price of a roll of film was. I just checked, you can get 10 rolls of 36 exposure, 35 mm Kodak 200 color film for $32.99, or about $.10 per shot. Then there was the cost of developing. Plus, you couldn’t look at what you’d just done to make adjustments. It probably made for better pictures because you had to give some thought to the composition, camera settings, and all that before you shot, but it didn’t lend itself to experimentation.

With digital, you can do lots of fun stuff. If it turns out, great; if not, there’s the delete button on the camera or onscreen. Here are some experiments I’ve tried.

This first set is from a full moon, natural light shoot I did a couple of years ago. I didn’t have a fast lens, so the models had to hold their poses for up to 20 seconds to get the proper exposure. BTW, long exposure is why you never saw anyone smile in the old (1800s) photos: they couldn’t hold a smile long enough for a proper exposure.

This ghostly image was caused by a car that drove by during the shot

She enjoyed holding the pose. Him, not so sure.

One other thing you can play around with is the shutter speed to get blur or more ghosts.

If you look closely you can barely see the ghost walking through the picture

And digital cameras make street photography easier. Because you aren’t worried about wasting a $.10 exposure, you can snap away at any angle, which makes for some interesting shots.

Lastly (for now) you can take pictures of all sorts of weird stuff that makes people scratch their heads.

So have fun. Play around. It’s really quite relaxing.

A Winter’s Day

black and white, Outdoor photographs

“In a deep and dark December, I am alone” from Simon and Garfunkel’s I am a Rock. In the song, the singer is gazing from his room at empty streets below on a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow. It’s clearly an urban scene, probably New York from a walk-up apartment.

Here in Cache Valley we don’t have many walk-up apartments that look down on empty streets shrouded in freshly fallen snow. But we have plenty of silent fields. To me the song is in black and white, the colors of emptiness, loneliness and silence.

Keep Shooting

street photography

To be a photographer you have to take photos. Lots of photos. Shoot everything. You never know what might become of it. Like this collection of shots from 30-60 years ago. Photography is a time capsule that captures what life was like way back when better than words ever could.

https://allthatsinteresting.com/cool-vintage-photos?fbclid=IwAR1ymWeumyLQXNnSvTYZAS3EtWAvBJLbadWhZgu8j7Pzwf1DEmNl7P3ztxA

 

City Parks

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I went to elementary school at the Adams School in Logan. Just east of the school is a park appropriately called Adams Park. Late this afternoon as the sun was setting on the first snow of the season I went there and got these pictures.

Open Fields

Outdoor photographs

Monday afternoon I left work early and took the family dog (the black one) pheasant hunting. I fully expected not to shoot a pheasant, not even to see anything, and I wasn’t disappointed.  But I got several great shots nonetheless. The two hours spent in the field brought back memories of a half century or more ago when I spent happy hours with my dad hunting in the western part of Cache Valley. Back then we had more luck, but the cold wind, dead grass and cattails rustling against boots, cows in nearby fields, the occasional shotgun blast of a fortunate hunter, clouds hanging low over mountains, fighting with the sun for control — all were reminders of what a beautiful place I live in.

October

Outdoor photographs

October is my favorite month. It’s a transition month. You begin wearing shorts and sandals, chasing the last days of summer, and end in jackets and boots, scraping frost off the windshield in the morning, sometimes using the air conditioning in the afternoon. Skies are impossibly blue and seem so close you can scratch them with your fingernail. Leaves carpet lawns, sidewalks and roads. Here are some memories of October.

How to Take Good Photographs

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Every photographer who wants to move from taking snapshots to real photographs asks this question: How can I take good photographs? Entire libraries of books have been written on this subject but it really comes down to two things: Know your camera, at least a little; and develop an eye for the interesting. Or, as documentary photographer Arthur “Weegee” Fellig said, “f/8 and be there.”

What Fellig meant was, know your camera, both its limitations and what are the best settings; and be where good pictures happen. The first is a technical statement; the second is more philosophical.

By “f/8” Fellig was referring to the fact that most documentary photography, and this includes street photography, photojournalism, travel, nature, wildlife — anything done outside a studio and without setup — is best shot in 35 mm format. This means a 35 mm focal length lens, not 35 mm film. The 35 mm focal length lens gives enough room in the frame to include elements that give perspective and interpretation to the photo. “f/8” refers to the lens aperture. The size of the aperture controls how much light enters the lens and therefore how much light is available to make the image, whether on film or digitally. The size of the aperture also affects the depth of field, or the portions of the photograph, from near to far, and how much of that is in focus. An aperture of f/8 gives a decent depth of field. Generally with f/8, anything between 9 feet in front of the lens to infinity in reasonably sharp focus. From a technical aspect, Fellig was saying, assuming you’re shooting a 35 mm format, set the aperture to f/8 and you won’t have to worry about focus.

By “be there” Fellig is expressing a philosophical or artistic viewpoint to go with the technical. Don’t be satisfied with the standard pinkish-orange sunset reflecting off the lake or the stiff family standing in front of Old Faithful as it goes off. Look for whatever interest you, what moves you, what makes you think “what am I looking at?” What’s interesting to you might not be interesting to everyone, but chances are a lot of people will think your choice is interesting. For example, I like to include people in my photos, but I cut them off occasionally.

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The single foot in this photograph adds a splash of color and humanity to these cobblestones in Boston. Otherwise, it’s just a nice close-up of ….. what? A wall? A street? Indoors? Out?

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This one is a nice close-up of sand toys at the beach. The slightly out-of-focus headless guy walking along the beach again adds humanity to the picture without making him the focus of the photo.

I also think that by “be there” Fellig was saying, just go somewhere and wait for something to happen. Photography, like hunting, requires patience. Sometimes you come home skunked, but occasionally you get a trophy.

So there you have it. All you need to know to take great photographs in one simple sentence: f/8 and be there.