That Glance

Glance - San Francisco - 2016

Today I joined a group of friends to visit the current exhibition of Paul Graham’s work at Pier 24 in San Francisco. Pier 24 is a beautiful gallery for the display of photography – with large neutral spaces in many different rooms – and controlled reservation-based entry to minimize any feeling of crowding the in the space. It’s a joy.

Graham’s work was organized into three bodies of work: American Night (1998–2002), a shimmer of possibility (2004–06), and The Present (2009–11). In his video, Graham talked about how each body of work was based on one aspect of the camera. American Night was based upon aperture – overexposing the images to create the soft white images. A shimmer was based upon time – snapping multiple images in a sequence to tell the story of something in a series of images. The Present was based upon the use of selective focus – or very shallow depth of field – to shift the viewer’s attention to a different point of interest in each image.

After watching Graham’s video explanation of each – and walking the exhibitions, I came away really liking his American Night collection best of all. These images at first look like nothing – you glance and them and want to move on. But when you stop and spend time with each image, your eye begins to see details that you originally overlooked. As you move closer to the image, the effect is enhanced – you start seeing more. A lovely treatment – and something I want to play with in the future.

Meanwhile, as we departed Pier 24, I came across this man walking toward me in the shadows under the pier’s overhang. I grabbed a quick shot and then he sat down. I continued walked toward him – and asked him – with a quick motion of my hand with my camera asking if it was OK to take his picture. He said yes – and then I captured him in this pose glancing off to his left. One of those great moments when it all comes together in street photography!

Adding Presence to Black and White Photos

Three years ago I was in Havana participating in a person-to-person cultural exchange organized by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. One of the photography group leaders at that session was George DeWolfe. While I wasn’t in his group, we did share breakfast a couple of days and I really enjoyed getting to know him a bit more.

After that meeting, I’ve followed George from a distance – and I particularly enjoy the work he’s been doing for years around the notion of adding “presence” to black and white images. I haven’t been using his techniques, however – but a blog post that I read this morning by Julia Anna Gospodarou brought me back to George and re-learning one of his simple techniques for adding presence to an image in Photoshop.

Last night I processed the top image below taken on a photo walk with Doug Kaye in San Francisco last Thursday. We often find the Muni bus stops along San Francisco’s Market Street to be good “stages” – and we await for interesting actors to appear. I was pretty happy with the image last night but when I looked at it again this morning I found it a bit “flat”.

Reading Julia Anna’s interview with George got me motivated to try a quick version of one of his techniques for adding presence – using the Color Range tool in Photoshop to separately adjust the brightness and contract of the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow areas of the image. This is a super easy technique – using the Color Range tool to create a selection of, for example, the highlights in the image – then use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to tweak the brightness and contrast of just the highlights. Do the same thing for the mid-tones and then for the shadows. Takes about 2 minutes to adjust the image this way – and it does help reduce the flatness and spread out the tonality of the image to make it more appealing. The second image below shows the result of my quick adjustments this morning.

There are other ways to accomplish this – with much finer grain control, for example, you can use Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Mask technique to also do this. But the quickness of using Color Range with a few Brightness/Contrast adjustment layers makes for a very speedy workflow. Thanks to George DeWolfe for sharing this technique – which he first wrote about back in 2007, almost ten years ago.

San Francisco Streets – January 2016

Doug Kaye - San Francisco - 2016

My photo buddy Doug Kaye and I met up yesterday in San Francisco for our first walk together of 2016. As usual we met at the Ferry Building – and immediately got immersed in the setup activities for Super Bowl City which is opening tomorrow. It was very cool to see the scope of this event – as lots of craftsmen, stage hands, and security staff did their work in Justin Herman Plaza and up Market Street.

Doug was shooting with a new – used but mint – Rolleiflex film camera. It was fun watching him look down to capture shots – Vivian Maier style. Meanwhile, I was shooting with my first Fujifilm X camera – the Fujifilm X-E2. I had a new lens – the 35mm f/2 prime – and put the X-E2 into black and white (with yellow filter) mode – and had a great time shooting. This camera really does work wonders in your hands – and the Fujifilm monochrome film treatment just looks superb right out of the camera.

Some examples follow. It was a very good day.

The Beard - San Francisco - 2016

Plugged In - San Francisco - 2016

Love to Sign - San Francisco - 2016

Plans - San Francisco - 2016

Philz - San Francisco - 2016

Touch - San Francisco - 2016

No Excuses

No Excuses - San Francisco - 2015

Citicorp Center in San Francisco is at One Sansome Street – just across from the former Crown Zellerbach building.

This stretch of Sansome just off Market Street is the province of motorcyclists – the parking is just for them. The architecture of the Citicorp Center provides an interesting stage – and there’s the Montgomery Street BART station entrance just off to the left. A locus for some fun street photography in San Francisco!

On a bright March morning in 2015, this bike rider was eyeing for a spot.

Side Swipe on San Francisco’s Sansome Street

Profile - San Francisco - 2015

There’s this great Art Deco doorway along San Francisco’s Sansome Street. One of the “stages of San Francisco”!

In the right light – at the best time of year – with a great subject passing through – it’s pretty magical.

Stepping Down

Stepping Down - San Francisco - 2015

This is one of my series of shots captured at San Francisco’s Ferry Building in March 2015.

I’ve previously processed one of these images – showing the worker climbing up the ladder.

This image shows the worker starting to step down off the ladder. I like them both – great memories of a beautiful morning at the Ferry Building!

Ernest Hemingway said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down to a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s the same with photography – it’s nothing.

Dramatic Architecture in Black and White

Packard - Stanford - 2011

Over the holidays, I spent some time working through the post-processing techniques of Joel Tjintjelaar.

Joel’s a master of long exposure black and white images – along with dramatic architectural images. His techniques have evolved – from using lots of hard selections to now using a combination of a few hard selections along with luminosity masks to shape the light in his monochrome images.

This is an early example of my application of some of Joel’s teachings. It’s the David Packard Electrical Engineering Building at Stanford – captured with my tiny vest pocket Canon Powershot S95 almost five years ago.

One Front Street in San Francisco

One Front Street - San Francisco - 2014

One in a while I see an architectural shot that I find interesting – and it’s the combination of structure and light that makes it so.

Here’s an image from last year – shot with my Fujifilm X100S on San Francisco’s Market Street – and processed in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

A hat tip to Joel Tjintjelaar for sharing some of his techniques in working on these kinds of black and white images.

The Importance of Letting Your Photos Marinate!

Take Out and Delivery - Havana - 2013

A couple of years ago, Eric Kim wrote one of his wonderful blog posts on the notion of letting your photos marinate “in order to really discover if they are any good or not.”

One of the things I most enjoy is looking back through my Lightroom catalog at images I’ve shot a year, or two, or more years ago. Sometimes I’ll just remember a situation – and go searching back through my catalog to try to remember. It’s always striking to me just how often I’ll something completely new in those images.

One of my first examples of this took place over a year from my first trip to Havana in January 2013. I was wondering whether I could assemble a book of portraits from my images shot in Havana – none of which were actually taken as portraits. I wanted to experiment with both black and white and a square format style – and it worked out beautifully. I found faces – portraits – in images I’d previously overlooked. Like seeing with new eyes all over again. See my Faces of Cuba images.

Last night I was back in a Havana mood again – this time looking forward to my next trip to Cuba in January 2016. I came across these two images – both of which just made me smile and remember the moments when they were taken. Marinate indeed – these two have been down deep in my Lightroom catalog for almost three years – and they resurfaced last night to my delight.

Break - Havana - 2013