Sometimes everything falls into place and an opportunity presents itself to make a nice photograph. When shooting performances, like the Kuhio Beach Hula Show I recently talked about, it’s worthwhile to scout behind the scenes. On the other side of the stage, near the changing tent, I spotted these beautifully dressed performers. I asked if I can make a portrait.
The light was wonderful and the Fuji X100S, known for rendering nice skin tones, did its job. Sure, I tweaked my JPEG in post, adding a bit more saturation and shadow fill, but that’s about it. I think the background almost looks like a canvas painting as if this was shot on a make-believe set.
Nope. I happened in real life on Waikiki Beach.
My end of summer photo essay on Hawaii last week reminded me of one of my favorites, the Sunset Torch Lighting and Hula Show at Kuhio Beach. It’s the perfect way to wrap-up a relaxing day on the beach.
Beyond the dancing and the music, the venue is perfectly positioned near the beach. With the sounds of the surf and the island breezes, look left and you can catch the last of the warm rays before blue hour. It’s a wonderful way to transition into the night. In an increasingly commercial and expensive place, this Hula show, located in the heart of Waikiki Beach, is free and open to the public. I highly recommended it either for photography or for just relaxing.
As my gear and photographic style have changed, I’ve captured the show in different ways. During my most recent visit in 2014, I shot primarily with the fixed lens, 35mm equivalent Fujifilm X100S. I find 35mm to be versatile and works nicely for documentation.
With the lightweight mirrorless setup, I moved freely around the venue and captured multiple angles. I think you get a real feel of the place as well as the mood. The style is in stark contrast to the way I used to shoot.
In 2008, a couple of years after I got seriously into photography, I was enamored with shallow depth of field (DOF). I wanted my subjects sharp and the background, well blurred. The quest for shallow DOF is typical, I think, especially with people new to cameras with larger sensors. You hear it all the time on photography boards and on reviews. They talk about the desire for “Bokeh”, which by the way, is not the same as shallow DOF. I made this photograph with a 8MP Canon Rebel XT with a modest 28 to 135mm lens. It’s my favorite candid portrait of a Hula Dancer.
Two years later, with my significantly upgraded equipment, I was convinced that I would create even more winners. I had my semi-pro Canon 7D, which I could machine gun to my heart’s content. I had my 70-200mm f4 L lens, that I could use to isolate my intended target.
A funny thing happened on the way to world, photographic domination. My images were mediocre at best. Sure, I had the shallow DOF and the background was a creamy blur, but so what. I lost all context to the environment. I took nearly 500 shots in rapid succession and not one really pleased me. This image was perhaps the best, which still did not match the subtle gesture of my favorite from 2 years prior.
Over the years, my gear changed and my style along with it. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. I no longer aspire to be the tactical weapon carrying photographer. Gone was the desire for big DSLR bodies with showy long white lenses. I more carefully compose my images and shoot less. Precision and stealth are the watch words, instead of spray and pray.
In 2014, In addition to my Fuji X100S, I had my small Olympus E-PM2 with kit lens. The 28mm to 84mm kit zoom gave me more flexibility. I could shoot video and zoom in for a bit more isolation, without losing context.
I could also go wider than with the X100S. I think this last photo sums up the entire event.
Without the large gear, I also enjoy my vacations more. I pack lighter and get less tired. I’m no longer that guy that stands out with the big camera. These are travel photos after all — visual keepsakes of my family’s activities.
It’s interesting to take stock of one’s changes. An evolution in style brought about by interest, experience, desire and gear. No doubt, there will be more changes in the future. Time will tell what they might be.
I’ve slowed down on the blog posts lately but continue to shoot more than ever. Recently, I received a dreaded message that I ran out of space on my hard drive. I guess you can never have too much storage.
I’ve long given up the notion of having my primary photo library on the computer’s internal drive. I have a squadron of external drives that hold and backup my priceless hobby. All told I’m up to 13 Terabytes of storage, including my newest 4 TB drive I’ve added to the mix.
Before my latest drive, my primary was a 2TB model. All of my Aperture 3 libraries (yes, I’m still using Aperture for now) run off that drive. I make multiple local backup copies to a pair of 3TB drives. That 2TB drive is also backed up to the cloud via the Crashplan service I’ve been using for years. Finally, I have a 1TB drive and use Time Machine to backup my computer’s internal drive.
Why is this relevant to photography? Well you know how important your workflow and backup system is to the world of digital, right? I talked about my workflow and backup system a few years ago. I still use the same method today. What does the photo at the top have anything to do with backups? Read my workflow post to find out.
It took all night and into the morning to copy the 2TB of data to my new 4TB drive. Now, my 4TB drive is my primary. I was happy to see that Crashplan was smart enough to recognize the duplicate data and it took less than a day to sync my 4TB drive to the cloud. The Crashplan interface reports that I now have 3.7TB of storage in the cloud, though in reality, I have two copies of the data up there. Sometime in the future, when I know the 4TB drive is adequately broken in, I will release the duplicate data and repurpose my 2TB drive.
I’ve been buying Western Digital Studio drives. Previous models had a dual USB 2 and Firewire 800 interface that worked great for Macs. The sturdy silver aluminum enclosures match the Mac and seems more robust than the usual cases. I also like that there are adequate vents along the top, which work logically to convect warm air. The newest model is only USB 2 and 3 (no firewire) however, which makes sense.
I bought the 3TB models 2 1/2 years ago for about $150, which is the same price as my latest 4TB model. I would have expected in 2+ years, the capacity would have doubled for the same price. I wonder if the rate of storage increases are starting to slow down? Either way, drive prices are incredibly low for what you get. There is no excuse not to have adequate backups.
Tonight, I spent a wonderful evening seeing the work of the noted photographer, Wyatt McSpadden. If you follow Kirk Tuck’s blog, he has mentioned Wyatt several times and considers him one of the best portrait photographers around.
Wyatt has shot extensively for Texas Monthly and is also famous around these parts for documenting the Barbecue Culture, or should I say religion.
Inspirational imagery, humorous stories and surrounded by friends. Not a bad way to spend the evening. Presented by the Austin Photographic Society and held at Precision Camera, it’s nice to be a apart of Austin’s healthy and creative photography community.
Today, the Earth slipped passed the Autumn Equinox and the Summer of 2015 officially ended in the Northern Hemisphere. It went so quickly — I really didn’t do much this summer.
I was browsing through my images from last year, from Hawaii. As it usually happens with photography, the pictures increase in value over time. I was transported back a year ago, reliving happy memories.
I shot all these in the late afternoon, in the golden hour before sunset. Unlike the demure morning light on Waikiki, the afternoons are vibrant. I really need to shoot more during this time. I shot street photography style with my Fuji X100S on Kuhio Beach which is one of the “sub-beaches” that make up the famous Waikiki Beach area.
I thought you might enjoy some warm scenes before the Autumn chill starts to settle in. In Austin, we still have a month or so of comparably warm weather but the subtle change of seasons are around. The highs barely hit 90 and the evening slips into the 60s. Yes, it’s starting get cool in Austin.