Jay Maisel: Light, Gesture & Color

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One of the major highlights of my explorations in photography was a very special week in May with Jay Maisel at The Bank in New York City. I’ve written about it before including this post about the importance of gesture. That week in May was one of the most unique learning experiences I’ve ever had – all thanks to Jay.

Jay shared everything with us – as he said, “It’s all I’ve got.” We suffered his harsh (but useful!) critiques, his stories and jokes, but also his love and care. Remarkable. Beautiful.

Jay’s just published a new book which discusses perhaps the most important primary theme of his teaching – it’s all about capturing light, gesture and color – the three ingredients that make images great images. While light and color are certainly important, my favorite is gesture. And, I think it’s Jay’s favorite too. He writes:

“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings and the implications of all that you look at: the wetness, reflectivity, and power of water; the subtlety of clouds; the texture of the bark of the tree; the delightful surface of a finished piece of wood; the smoothness of a baby; the rough, ragged face of the aged; or the aerial perspective of diminishing clarity in a series of mountains.”

Yes, the details – and the gestures – “the little eccentric things that people did that gave them individuality and made them interesting. … When I see these things and I’m lucky enough to get them, I can’t stop grinning like an idiot.”

Oh Jay! You make me smile – and reflect on the beautiful impact you had on me. Love ya, man!

That Porcelain Doll in New York City

Porcelain Doll - New York - 2014

This is one of my favorite images from my recent Jay Maisel workshop in New York City.

It was early evening on the first day of the workshop and we were walking down Spring Street toward Broadway when we came across this brick wall and window across the street. As usual, when you find a stage like this you setup the camera and wait for an actor to appear. A couple of folks did – but none as interesting as this woman – who, with her beautiful skirt, just matched the colors of the brick. Lovely!

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and post-processed in Lightroom 5.

Prep on the Streets of New York

Prep - New York - 2014

Walking the streets of New York early in the morning reveals new perspectives. This image is an example – a worker waiting outside and checking in before heading inside to get to work. And that blue front wall in the midst of being prepped for a final coat of new paint! From my recent New York City street photography workshop with Jay Maisel.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and post-processed in Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC and Nik’s Color Efex Pro 2.

The Painted Brick Wall: Gesture, Light and Color in Street Photography

Juxtaposition - New York - 2014

This is one of my favorite photographs from my week in New York with Jay Maisel. About a block away from Jay’s “bank” (studio/gallery/home) at on Bowery is Prince Street with this beautiful painted wall. It’s a classic stage opportunity – where you stand across the street, setup for the shot and wait for the actors to appear.

In this case, these two were walking at each other. I waited to snap the image until they had crossed and captured this image. I love how they’re positioned – with the gestures of the guy on the right with his headphones, the lovely light coming down the wall, and the rich color of the whole scene.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 – processed in Lightroom 5.

The Importance of Gesture

Hey You! - New York - 2014

In his street photography workshop, Jay Maisel stresses “go for the gesture over the graphics” when shooting images. Light and color are important – but most of the street photography we think of as “among our best” have some powerful gesture as part of them.

This image is an example. I shot this on the way to lunch at Katz’s Deli on Houston Street the second day of Jay’s workshop. We were walking up a relatively narrow street when we came upon this construction site. What caught my eye was the triangular wire shape hanging down from a crane. But what makes this picture powerful is the construction worker pointing directly at me with his finger. He wasn’t happy with me – and it came across with this initial gesture!

Of all of the nearly 2,000 images I came home with following the workshop, this is one of the best gesture images – and also the only one that I recall upsetting the subject as I was taking the picture!

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 – processed in Lightroom 5.

See also my post about this image and Jay’s workshop on InMenlo.com.

Street Photography Tip: Wear Basic Black!

Chinatown Cafe - New York - 2014

Here’s an image I’m using to make a point – if you’re doing street photography, you might want to think about wearing an all black outfit. At last week’s Jay Maisel workshop, we briefly discussed this – Jay wears black shirts constantly.

For street photography, you’ll sometimes find yourself in the image – such as me in this image of a Chinatown Cafe early in the morning. You can see my reflection – especially my white hat! – just above the cook himself. I had a black jacket on – which you can also see – but it’s much more subdued than that white hat!

I’ll be shopping soon enough for a black version of my favorite hat!

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 and processed in Lightroom 5.

On the Wall!

On the Wall - New York - 2014

After lunch on the second day of the Jay Maisel Workshop – at Katz’s Deli – we walked down some of the nearby streets. On one of them this crew was working on painting the wall – here’s a closer up version of the woman while the man was ducked behind the front cover doing something else.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-T1, post-processed in Lightroom 5.

Life Will Never Be the Same!

Fujifilm X-T1

With my friend Doug Kaye, we headed to New York City last week for a five day photography workshop with Jay Maisel. The workshop was truly a life changing experience for me – opening new eyes and providing new ways to see as taught by this 83-year old American treasure! Jay is famous for being a tough critic – but it’s from that criticism that new learning happens and bad habits get eliminated.

I spent the week shooting with my Fujifilm X-T1 – mostly using the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens (70-300mm equivalent on a standard 35mm camera) – along with occasional iPhone 5s shots. If my X-T1 could talk, it’d share even more about how things changed in my photography.

During our shooting on the streets, we used Jay’s preferred camera settings for street photography: ISO 1600 (which helps the camera take advantage of faster shutter speeds to freeze movement), increased sharpness and increased color saturation in the JPEGs.

Jay also brackets exposures when he shoots – with one image properly exposed based on the camera’s meter, one over exposed by one stop and a third underexposed by one stop. It was interesting to see the differences between these images – how often the colors in the image were also affected.

Unfortunately, exposure bracketing isn’t a strong suit for the X-T1. Although the X-T1 is capable of high speed burst shooting at up to 8 frames per second, it isn’t capable of that when choosing exposure bracketing. Rather, the shots take about a second to complete the three images – which often results in movement in the scene. Jay’s Nikon D3S fires off his three bracketed shots in rapid fire fashion – minimizing any movement. I really hope that Fujifilm can provide a firmware update to the X-T1 that enables rapid fire exposure bracketing – that would bring it from “pretty good” to awesome for this kind of street photography!

After trying exposure bracketing on the X-T1 for the first day and a half, I abandoned it – moving instead to film emulation bracketing. In that mode, the X-T1 takes one image and then applies up to three of the Fuji film types supported by the camera – I chose Standard, Velvia, and Black and White with a yellow filter. Nine times out of ten I found the Velvia images the most satisfying of the two color films – but many of the black and whites also looked superb right out of the camera. I didn’t work with them much, however, and Jay’s passion is all about vivid color photography.

With almost 2,000 images to review from the week, I’m slowly working through and posting some of those that seem pretty good to me. You can find them here in this Flickr album. I’d welcome your feedback on any of them!

Morning Glory along New York City’s Rivington Street

Morning Glory - New York - 2014

This past week I attended Jay Maisel’s Workshop for photographers in New York City. Each morning, Jay wanted us up and out shooting before class began. This image is from my first morning out (Tuesday) when I found this wall along Rivington Street which the sun gently kissed as it was coming up.

This image was taken with my Canon PowerShot S100 and processed in Lightroom 5.