Author Archives: Scott Loftesness

About Scott Loftesness

Street Photographer, Payments Professional. Follow me on Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Playing with Color Grading for a Cinematic Look

Trouble Me - Coney Island - 2015

A few years ago, I became acquainted with the work of Jaime Ibarra. Around the same time, I started paying attention to color grading – initially in movies and later in photography.

Ming Thein has written about the cinematic look – it’s one of his favorite photographic styles. He says that “obvious hallmarks of the style are an abundance of out of focus areas, a narrow/wide format, and highly directional light.”

Add to that color – in particular, color in the highlights and shadows.

Jaime has recently updated his color grading workflow – which inspired me to dive back into that technique again. The technique delivers a very compelling cinematic image. It’s based on adding contouring highlights and shadows first to the image followed by the color grading. The effect is almost three dimensional – taking flat images into having depth. You’ll see that in these images – lovely depth of lights and shadows along with beautiful cinematic color grading. Enjoy!

Here are a few of my recent experiments – using recent images from New York City and Paris.

Toast - Paris - 2014

Cocktails - Paris - 2014

Summer Solstice - New York City - 2015

In My Hand - Paris - 2014

Market Time - New York City - 2015

Two Views of the Paris Skyline

Deuce - Paris - 2014

I’ve been having fun going back through some of my images from a year or two ago – including the images I shot in Paris last October.

Here are two examples – of the Paris skyline shot from the Pompidou Center – and processed a bit differently to get to monochrome.

Thanks to Valérie Jardin for her beautiful Paris workshop!

October Light - Paris - 2014

Moments at Drakes Beach – Experimenting in Black and White

Moment - Drakes Beach - 2013

I been doing a bit of experimenting over the last few days with black and white conversion techniques. I particularly find the work of Joel Tjintjelaar of interest – see his Joel Tjintjelaar Flickr Stream and his BWvision web site.

Joel’s latest work is based on a combination of masking techniques – traditional “hard selections” combined with luminosity masking techniques pioneered by Tony Kuyper. I’m intrigued with the notion of applying these techniques to street photography and will be experimenting more to see if we can create even more vibrant black and white street photographs using modifications of Joel’s and Tony’s techniques applied to street photography.

Here are a couple of additional examples from my experiments over the last few days:

Luke - Drakes Beach - 2013

David W. Packard Electrical Engineering Building - Stanford - 2011

Playing with Empty Space in Street Photography

Enter - San Francisco - 2015

Composition – and subsequent cropping (if we choose to cheat a bit) – really shapes the images we capture on the street. Sometimes, rarely, it’s empty space that makes the composition.

This is a recent example – shot at Vinton and Grant Avenue in San Francisco with my Fujifilm X-T1 – and, I’ll admit, cropped to perfect.

The focus of the image is the woman moving into the doorway on the left edge. But the empty space – and the dramatic light – really fill the frame. The No Parking sign on the right really anchors that side of the image.

I opted to leave the image in color instead of converting to monochrome. I found the colors of the wall on the left, the woman and the street shadows added a lot to the image. In monochrome, without the colors, the empty space seemed too overwhelming.

The Two Genres of Street Photography

Attitude - San Francisco - 2015

Street photography has become my favorite genre – after having gone through a serious period of landscape (including HDR) photography. Landscape is beautiful – you shoot from stunning locations – but the hours are tough (up very early before sunrise – and out until after sunset). Seems a younger person’s pursuit.

Street shooting prefers crowds – typically at mid-day. You can sleep in – and not stay up late.

But there are at least two genres of street photography. One is based on shooting with a wide angle lens (think 35mm). The other is based on shooting with a zoom (think up to a 200mm). They’re very different – but both can be fun. In May 2014, I took a workshop in New York City with Jay Maisel. Jay’s a proponent of the zoom approach. More recently, in June 2015, I took a workshop in New York City with Peter Turnley. Peter’s a proponent of the wide angle approach.

Late last year, after I signed up for Peter’s workshop, I decided to exclusively shoot with my Fujifilm X100T – a classic 35mm rangefinder camera. I came to love the images it produced – and it taught me how see in that 35mm format.

Today, for the first time since I made that commitment, I shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 with the 18-135mm lens. For some street work, having the extra reach of that zoom is just perfect for the street candid style of photography. But the X100T is beautiful for street portraits.

Both genres have their place – I’m going to continue to explore them both!

Rear Guard - San Francisco - 2015

Street Artist - San Francisco - 2015

The Stools on San Francisco’s Stockton Street

DSCG5216

My friend Doug Kaye and I seem to get to San Francisco’s Chinatown a couple of times each year for one of our street photography adventures. We love the small alleys in Chinatown for their beautiful textures and, during some times of the year, amazing light and shadows. But we also love Stockton Street – the central “market hall” for Chinatown.

Stockton Street always seems to be bustling – with thick crowds of people out shopping the markets that line this busy street. It’s often great fun to watch the crosswalks for interesting people as the cross the street or round the corner right in front of you.

On a recent visit I noticed something quite useful – especially for a guy like me who enjoys sitting down and working a particular scene. On many of the street corners on the east side of Stockton Street there are fire hydrants adjacent to the crosswalks – and they’re just the right height to prop my body on or against as I try to stay out of the way of the busy traffic while attempting to capture the scene.

The image above is one example – Doug is crossing the street (shooting with his new Leica Q) – while I’m holding back and capturing the woman in pink who’s looking at him with just a touch of disdain. I shot this with my Fujifilm X100T – and it’s been tightly cropped to exaggerate the effect here – but you get the idea.

Below is an image of one of these “stools”. I waited a couple of minutes for him to leave – because I wanted it – but he was firmly planted and holding forth on his stool! I thought about giving him my camera and asking him to shoot a few shots! 😉

DSCG5278

Next time you’re wandering Stockton Street in Chinatown and need a quick break – look for a stool. Just don’t bother looking on the other side of the street – it’s populated with big hydrants from San Francisco’s high pressure distribution system and they lack a smooth top suitable for sitting on! You can see one of those high pressure hydrants in the background of the image with Doug – it’s got the blue top.

Havana Simplified

NY - Havana - 2013

A couple of years ago, I noticed the work of Chris Hilgert on Google+. At the time – he’s since moved on to other things – he was using a post-processing technique which I really enjoyed. The basic idea was to simplify the image to push noisy details out of the image while retaining fine details in the areas of primary interest in the image.

I decided to try experimenting again with variations on this technique – applying the technique to some of my images from Havana shot in 2013. The Flickr album that resulted is here.

Passing Conversation - Havana - 2013

Sisters - Havana - 2013

Lily and Me

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This image was most likely shot in 2009 by my good friend – the late Chris Gulker.

We recently came across a roll of unprocessed film in one of Chris’ Leicas from that era – and my friend Doug Kaye had it processed.

Twice a week Lily and I would go for a 1.5 mile walk with Chris around his neighborhood – and then we’d come back to his place, have coffee and solve the world’s problems. Chris made this image during one of our problem solving sessions! Linda Hubbard Gulker put up with us as we did our thing.

We all miss Lily and Chris a lot. Those were very special times!